Supreme Court commutes death penalty of serial killer who spent a decade in solitary confinement

Court finds his solitary confinement from 2006 to 2013 unlawful

November 05, 2022 03:17 am | Updated 07:49 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Umesh Reddy. File.

Umesh Reddy. File. | Photo Credit: BHAGYA PRAKASH

The Supreme Court on Friday commuted the death penalty for cop-turned-serial killer B.A. Umesh, nicknamed ‘Ripper’, to life sentence on the ground that he was kept in solitary confinement for 10 years, from the date of his death sentence to the disposal of his mercy petition, without the sanction of law.

A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India U.U. Lalit ordered that Umesh should not be considered for remission before he serves 30 years of his sentence.

“We impose upon him a sentence of life imprisonment with a rider that he shall undergo a minimum sentence of 30 years and if any application for remission is moved on his behalf, the same shall be considered on its own merits only after he has undergone an actual sentence of 30 years. If no remission is granted, it goes without saying that the sentence of imprisonment for life shall mean till the remainder of his life,” Chief Justice Lalit, who authored the judgment, directed.

The court noted that Umesh was in solitary confinement from 2006, the year he was admitted to prison, till the rejection of his mercy petition by the President in 2013. He was further kept in solitary till 2016.

“Segregation of a convict from the day when he was awarded death sentence till his mercy petition was disposed of, would be in violation of the law laid down by the Supreme Court,” Chief Justice Lalit observed.

In Umesh’s case, the court found that his solitary confinement and segregation from 2006 to 2013 were without the sanction of law and completely opposed to the principles laid down by this court. The court said Umesh was diagnosed to be suffering from psychosis and depression due to his prolonged solitary incarceration.

Umesh was convicted on the basis of the sole eyewitness evidence of his victim’s seven-year-old son, who chanced upon his mother’s murderer leaving their home with a bag in hand.

The case dealt with the sexual assault and murder of a widow in her mid-thirties at Bhuvaneshwarinagar in Bengaluru over 18 years ago.

On a fateful day in February 1998, the victim had returned with her seven-year-old son after school. He had gone out to play. On his return, he saw the convict in the hall of their apartment with a bag in hand. Umesh introduced himself as ‘uncle Venkatesh’, and while leaving told the boy that his mother was “possessed with some evil spirits” and he was going out to call the doctor. The boy went inside to find his mother dead and lying in a pool of blood.

The police later caught up with Umesh while he was committing another robbery two days later.

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