HC reduces man’s death penalty to life term for kidnapping and murdering child for ransom

 The Delhi High Court Monday commuted the death penalty awarded to a man for kidnapping for ransom and killing a 12-year-old child to life imprisonment with no remission till 20 years, saying it cannot be held that the murder was pre-planned or diabolic enough to shock the collective conscience of society.

The high court concluded the case does not fall in the category of ‘rarest of rare cases’ and said it was not one where reformation of the convict was not possible.

“.. accordingly, this court is of the considered view that a sentence of imprisonment of life with no remission till 20 years would be the appropriate sentence. The sentence of the appellant is thus modified to rigorous imprisonment for life with no remission till 20 years and to pay a fine of Rs 1 lakh,” a bench of Justices Mukta Gupta and Anish Dayal said in a 64-page judgment.

The high court turned down the reference seeking confirmation of the death sentence of appellant Jeevak Nagpal and disposed of his appeal after upholding his conviction for the offences of murder, kidnapping for ransom, criminal intimidation and tampering with evidence while modifying the order on sentence.

The incident took place on March 18, 2009 when the child had gone to a stationery stop but did not return home. Later, the child’s father received a text message on his mobile regarding the kidnapping of his son and demand for ransom.

A complaint was made to the police and the accused was caught the next day. He led the police to the scene of crime and a dry drain in Rohini in the national capital where he had disposed of the victim’s body.

The victim’s family was represented by advocate Prashant Diwan.

The man claimed he was falsely implicated in the case and that he neither kidnapped nor killed the boy or demanded ransom.

While reducing the sentence, the high court said no material has been placed on record by the State to show that Nagpal is a menace to society with no possibility of any reformation and that there is no option left except to award the extreme sentence of death.

The bench said it was evident that the appellant was in financial stringency and needed money for which he had kidnapped the child.

From the evidence on record, it appears the murder of the deceased was not pre-planned as the appellant was not armed with any weapon however, when he got stuck with his car, he smothered the victim and used the jack handle to inflict injuries on the child so as to cause his death, it said.

“Though causing death of someone in itself is perversity, however, causing death by smothering and inflicting injuries by jack handle though opined to be consistent with intense torture, cannot be held to be a diabolic or seriously perverse manner of committing murder so as to shock the collective conscience of the society and fall in the category of rarest of rare cases,” the high court said.

The court also noted that the man had no previous criminal record, and on psychological assessment, no ailment or past history has been found.

It said the convict’s conduct in jail was satisfactory except for one instance when he was punished, and he has been working as a Sahayak (assistant) at the legal office in the prison.

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“Thus it cannot be said that the option of life sentence is unquestionably foreclosed as the appellant is capable of being reformed,” the court said.

It said the appellant was not armed with any weapon of offence and had kidnapped the minor child for ransom. It was only when his car broke down, and he had to call for help from his friend Sahil, that he committed the murder by smothering the victim and inflicting injuries on him with the jack handle available in the vehicle.

“Hence even though the offence of kidnapping for ransom was committed in a pre-planned manner, it cannot be held that the murder of the victim was committed in a pre-planned manner,” the court said.

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