‘Hang by neck till dead’: Bom HC confirms death sentence in a rarest of rare cases for committing rape and murder of a 3-years 9-months old child

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Sadhana S. Jadhav and Prithviraj K. Chavan, JJ. confirmed the death sentence awarded by the trial court to the accused−appellant for committing heinous crime of brutal sexual assault on a child aged 3-years and 9-months, and after that committing her murder. While confirming the death sentence in this rarest of rare cases, the High Court observed:    

“The act of the accused is gruesome and is committed in a diabolic manner. It is a heinous offence. It is unimaginable that a cheerful, frolicking child enjoying with her pet would provoke the feelings of lust in a man who is a father of two daughters and a son. The perversity in the mind of the accused is apparent and therefore, we are of the opinion that the aggravating circumstances in the present case outweigh the mitigating circumstances placed before the court in the course of hearing of the appeal.”

Factual Matrix

In the instant proceedings, the State sought confirmation of death sentence passed by the trial court against the accused. The accused also filed a criminal appeal against the order of the trial court whereby he was convicted and directed to be hanged by neck till he is dead for having committed offences punishable under Sections 302, 363, 376(2)(i) and 201 IPC, and Sections 8 and 4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act).

On the unfortunate day of 30-9-2013, the 3-years and 9-months old victim went out of her house to play with her dog, but did not return. Upon searching, her father found the dog tied to the watchmen’s chawl which was just next to the room of the accused (a watchman), but could not find her daughter. A missing report was lodged and investigation began. The dead body of the victim was found lying in a mud pond. The accused was arrested. The autopsy of the dead body showed that she was brutally sexually abused before she was put to death. On completion of trial, the accused was convicted and sentenced as mentioned above.

Law, Analysis and Decision

Circumstantial evidence

The instant case rested on circumstantial evidence. The father of the victim stated that while searching for his daughter, he saw their dog tied to a window in front of a room in the watchmen’s chawl. The legs of the dog were smudged by mud. The father saw the accused standing behind the house and there was mud smudged on his legs as well. Another prosecution witness, a watchman, stated that he saw the accused with a small girl and a dog standing on the road which lead towards the forest. Another witness, a rounder/supervisor attached to the Maharashtra Guard Force Security, stated that on the day of the incident the accused was absent from his duty as watchman. Upon being enquired, the accused told him that he was under stress and wanted to return to his village immediately.  In fact, in his cross-examination, this witness further disclosed that the accused had divulged to him that he had committed a great blunder and therefore desired to return to his village.

The High Court noted that the prosecution evidence indicated that the accused was last seen with a small girl and a dog in the afternoon of the day of the crime. Upon meticulous appreciation of evidence of the prosecution witnesses, the Court found that the testimony of none of the witnesses was shattered by way of cross-examination. The sterling testimony of these witnesses deserved to be relied upon.

The Court noted that the evidence would establish that the accused was lastly seen with a child who was found dead soon thereafter. This was to be read in consonance with the fact that the dog was tied to the window of a room just next to the house of the accused. Apart from last seen theory, the scene of offence panchanama as drawn by the investigating agency further substantiated the case of the prosecution.

Medical evidence

Apart from the circumstantial evidence, the medical evidence also assumed importance. The accused was taken for medical examination on 4-10-2013. Upon clinical examination, it was observed that there was abrasion on foreskin and congestion of glance penis. It was further opined that the age of injury was 4 to 5 days old.

The Court recorded that there was nothing to deny the medical opinion. The accused did not assign any reason for the injuries on his private parts. The injuries went unexplained. However, it showed that the accused had sexual intercourse with a small child 2 to 4 days ago. This opinion was corroborated by the evidence of another doctor who performed autopsy on dead body of the victim.

Referring to Modi’s Medical Jurisprudence which discussed the nature of injuries on the person of an accused in a case of forcible sexual intercourse, the Court noted that there would be injuries on the penis which would be within the special knowledge of the accused. In fact, the injuries were within the special knowledge of the accused and he ought to have given explanation for the same.

Extra-judicial confession

Another incriminating circumstance against the accused was the evidence of the supervisor to whom the accused made an extra-judicial confession to the extent that he was under stress. The specific reason for stress was not divulged. However, the accused confessed that he had done a wrong thing.

The Court observed that there is no doubt that an extra judicial confession is a weak piece of evidence. However, it reflected upon the conduct of the accused on the day of incident.

Quantum of sentence

The High Court heard the accused on the point of sentencing through video conferencing. The Court spoke to the accused personally and he did not show any remorse. The only mitigating circumstance put forth by him was economic stringency of his family. The Court was convinced that the act committed by the accused was gruesome and revolts human conscience.

After relying on the decisions in Vasanta Sampat Dhupare v. State of Maharashtra, (2017) 6 SCC 631 and Ramnaresh v. State of Chattisgarh, (2012) 4 SCC 257 on the principles of sentencing, the High Court recorded that the accused did not for a moment thought of the precious life of the minor child. It did not strike him for a moment that he himself  happens to be a father of two daughters, who are yet to see the life. The crime smacks of degradation of a girl child, depravity and perversity of his mind. The child was sexually assaulted in barbaric and inhuman manner. It is diabolic in nature and thereafter, it was a brutal murder which makes it the rarest of rare case. The Court observed:

“It is such an incident that parents of every small girl child would feel a chill down the spine before sending their undefended, innocent, minor girl child to see the rainbow as they would be scared as to whether she would fall a prey to any monster like the present one. It is the safety of a girl child which is of paramount importance to a society.”

The Court concluded that it is the bounden duty of the courts to impose a sentence which is proportionate to the offence committed by an accused. The accused in the instant case deserved death penalty, as any alternative punishment would be unquestionably foreclosed taking into consideration the inhuman and barbaric act of the accused. The prosecution has proved the chain of aggravating circumstances as against the mitigating circumstances beyond reasonable doubt. The act of rape and the manner in which the child was murdered and abandoned in the muddy pond invited indignation and abhorrence. Hence, the death penalty awarded to the accused was confirmed. And the criminal appeal filed by the accused was dismissed. [State of Maharashtra v. Ramkirat Munilal Goud, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 4562, dated 25-11-2021]

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