Rajasthan High Court: In a case wherein, the criminal death reference had been moved by Special Judge, POCSO Court, Jaipur, Rajasthan for confirmation of death sentence awarded to accused vide order dated 10-02-2022, the Division Bench of Pankaj Bhandari*, Bhuwan Goyal, JJ., upheld the conviction of the accused and commuted the death sentence awarded to the accused to the life imprisonment which extended to the full natural life of the accused, subject to any remission or commutation at the instance of the government for good and sufficient reasons.
In the instant case, a missing person report was filed by the father of a missing girl child aged about four and a half years. Thereafter, the dead body of the missing child was recovered from a pond and it was found that she was raped and drowned in the pond.
Subsequently, the police after due investigation filed charge-sheet against the accused-appellant. The Trial Court after hearing the parties, convicted the accused for the offences under Sections 363, 302, 201 of Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’) and Section 5-(M) and 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (‘POCSO Act’), in alternate Section 376-(AB) of IPC and Section 84 of Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (‘the JJ Act’) and had awarded the death penalty to the accused.
Thereafter, for confirmation of death sentence, the Death Reference had been moved before this Court. Further, aggrieved by the judgment of conviction and sentence, accused had preferred a separate appeal.
Analysis, Law, and Decision
The Court opined that every incriminating circumstance had been proved against the accused by cogent and reliable evidence and all these cumulatively formed a complete chain of circumstances which unerringly pointed towards the guilt of the accused. The Court further opined that the Court did not find any illegality in the impugned judgment of conviction and therefore upheld the judgment.
On considering the issue as to whether the death penalty awarded to the accused-appellant by the Trial Court vide impugned order of sentence dated 10-02-2022 was liable to be confirmed, the Court referred to Vasanta Sampat Dupare v. State of Maharashtra, (2017) 6 SCC 631 and Veerendra v. State of M.P., (2022) 8 SCC 668, wherein death penalty had been converted into life imprisonment.
The Court stated that the offence had been committed with a young girl of four-and-a-half-year-old and further observed that the mitigating circumstances in the present case were:
i. the age of the accused was 23 years at the time of the alleged offence;
ii. the accused-appellant had a wife and a girl child of one year old at the time of the alleged incident;
iii. the accused did not have any criminal antecedents;
iv. the murder was not pre-meditated and
v. his behaviour in custody was not uncomplimentary and so, it could not be said that he would be a menace to the society.
The Court referred to Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, (1980) 2 SCC 684 and opined that considering the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the present case did not fall within the category of ‘rarest of rare case’ and therefore, commuted the death penalty to that of life imprisonment, which should extend to the full natural life of the appellant but subject to any remission or commutation at the instance of the government for good and sufficient reasons.
The Court further upheld the conviction of the accused-appellant for offences under Sections 363, 302, 201 of IPC, Section 5-(M) and 6 of POCSO Act, in alternate Section 376-(AB) of IPC and Section 84 of the JJ Act, and set aside the death sentence awarded to the appellant by the Trial Court vide impugned order of sentence dated 10-02-2022.
[State of Rajasthan v. Suresh Kumar, 2023 SCC OnLine Raj 1330, decided on 18-07-2023]
*Judgment by- Justice Pankaj Bhandari
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For Accused(s)- Mahendra Kumar, Mohan Choudhary, Advocates;
For State: Javed Choudhary, Addl. G.A.;
For Complainant(s): Fahad Hasan, Amaan Ahmed Ali, Advocates.