Staff Reporter

"Such a case does not warrant death sentence"

MADURAI: The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has ruled that raping and murdering a four-year-old child is not a "rarest of rare" offence warranting death sentence.

Hence, a Division Bench of Justices M. Chockalingam and P.R. Shivakumar commuted the death sentence imposed on a 62-year-old convict to life imprisonment. He was 58 during the commission of the offence in 2003.

The Judges modified the sentence on a Referred Trial (a matter referred to the High Court by the trial court), as the convict from Kodaikanal did not file an appeal against the verdict passed by the Dindigul Principal Sessions court Judge on February 26. They arrived at the decision after hearing the Amicus Curiae (a court-appointed lawyer) appearing for the convict.

In a similar case, another Division Bench in January had altered the death sentence holding that committing sodomy and killing a four-year-old boy did not necessitate imposition of death penalty though the offence was "dastardly and horrible."

Giving reasons for not awarding death sentence in the Kodaikanal case, the Judges said that the convict was a narcotic, drunkard, illiterate and uncivilised. Though he did not intend to kill the child, she died due to profuse bleeding following the sexual assault. The Supreme Court had held that such offences committed due to a momentary lapse on seeing a lonely girl at a secluded place did not fall under the ambit of "rarest or rare" offences.

Hypothesis proved

However, the Judges said that the prosecution had effectively proved the hypothesis that no one else except the accused could have committed the offence though the entire case rested on circumstantial evidence. The recovery of the victim's undergarments from the house of the accused, her dead body from his backyard and the medical evidence pointed to the complicity of the offender.