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SC admits error, commutes death sentence to life

SC admits error, commutes death sentence to life

NEW DELHI: More than eight years after awarding death penalty to a man for killing his wife and four kids including 10-month-old baby in Nanded district in Maharashtra, the Supreme Court has now found fault in its verdict for coming to the conclusion about the severity of the offence to justify the extreme punishment and commuted his sentence to imprisonment for the entire life.
After re-examining all the evidences minutely, a bench of Justices N V Ramana, M M Shantanagoudar and Indira Banerjee held that the apex court, while delivering its verdict in 2011, had committed two errors — firstly by wrongly relying upon extra-judicial confession made by the convict to his former wife which was unverified and secondly by observing that he had crushed the face of his wife which was not substantiated by medical evidence.
Though the court held that the circumstantial evidence is strong enough to convict the accused but the extreme punishment of death sentence is not justified.
“This Court, in appeal, also relied upon the deposition of PW-6(his ex-wife) with respect to the extra-judicial confession made to her, inasmuch as she deposed in her examination-in-chief that he had confessed to her over a telephonic call that he had murdered the deceased. However, it is clear that the Court omitted to appreciate that she had admitted in her cross-examination that the petitioner had not told her that he had murdered the deceased, which in fact was a reason for the Trial Court to not rely on her testimony. Thus, we find substance in the submission of his counsel that this Court committed an error apparent on the face of the record in placing reliance upon the extra judicial confession,”the court said.
“We find strength in the submission made by the counsel for the petitioner that this Court, in determining the correctness of the quantum of sentence assessed by the HC, while noting that the offence appeared to be premeditated and well-planned, erroneously observed that he had crushed the face of the deceased to avoid identification. We find that this observation is unsupported by the medical evidence on record,”the bench said.
In this case the apex court had in 2011 upheld trial court and the Bombay HC order to award him death sentence for killing his wife and four kids aged— 10 months, four, six, ten years in 2007 in remote village of Rupla Naik Tanda in district Nanded. The court had even dismissed his review plea in 2012 but recalled its order by which review plea was dismissed. It had stayed execution of death sentence and re-opened his review plea for fresh hearing.
According to the police, the convict was having a extra marital relationship which led to frequent fight between them. As there was no eye-witness to the crime, the trial court and HC relied upon the circumstantial evidences— like he remained absconded for a month after committing the offence and the deceased were last seen with him— to convict him.
The convict eight year long battle for life ended with the apex court commuting his sentence. But taking into account of his conduct in jail for indulging in illegal activities in prison and intentionally abusing prisoners and jail staff, the court directed that he be remained in jail for rest of life.
“Evidently, even the fact that the evidence was circumstantial in nature did not weigh very heavily on the Court’s mind, let alone the strength and nature of the circumstantial evidence. Be that as it may, we find that the material on record is sufficient to convince the court of the petitioner’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt; however, the nature of the circumstantial evidence in this case amounts to a mitigating circumstance significant enough to tilt the balance of aggravating and mitigating circumstances in his favour, keeping in mind the doctrine of prudence,” the bench said.
TimesofIndia

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