The Supreme Court on Friday commuted to life imprisonment the death penalty awarded to a man who had murdered his sister and her lover in 2017, observing he has been found to be “well-behaved” and without a criminal mindset.
A bench headed by Justice B R Gavai delivered its verdict on the appeals filed by two convicts, one of whom was awarded death penalty while the other was sentenced to life imprisonment. They had challenged the December 2021 judgement of the Bombay High Court.
The high court had dismissed their appeals against the trial court verdict and confirmed the death sentence awarded to one of them.
While observing that no interference was warranted with the concurrent findings of the trial court and the high court which convicted both for the offence of murder, the apex court noted the only question was whether the case fell in the rarest of the rare category so as to award death penalty.
The bench, also comprising Justices Vikram Nath and Sanjay Karol, observed that both the appellants do not have any criminal antecedents and appellant Digambar, who was awarded capital punishment, was a young man of about 25 years at the time of the incident.
“The medical evidence would further reveal that the appellants have not acted in a brutal manner, inasmuch as there is only single injury inflicted on both the deceased. As such, we find that the present case cannot be considered to be ‘rarest of rare’ case,” the bench said.
“In any case, the report of the Probation Officer, Nanded, as well as the Superintendent, Nashik Road Central Prison would show that the appellant Digambar has been found to be well-behaved, helping and a person with leadership qualities. He is not a person with criminal mindset and criminal records,” it said.
The top court said it was of the considered view that the high court as well as the trial court had erred in holding that the case would fall under the category of ‘rarest of rare’ to award capital punishment to Digambar.
“We are, therefore, inclined to partly allow the appeal of appellant Digambar. However, insofar as the appellant Mohan, who has been awarded a sentence of life imprisonment, is concerned, we find that there is no reason to interfere,” it said.
The apex court noted that Digambar’s sister, who was having an affair with a person for five years, was married to a man in June 2017 and in July 2017, she left her matrimonial home without informing anybody.
It noted her husband had lodged a missing report at the police station on the same day and Digambar, having knowledge of the affair, was suspicious that she might have gone with that person.
The court noted in the verdict that both the accused found them and Digambar assaulted them resulting in their death.
The bench said Digambar had then rushed to the police station and surrendered.
“Though the conviction of the appellant Digambar under section 302 (murder) IPC is maintained, the sentence of capital punishment is commuted to life imprisonment,” it said.