The Delhi High Court on Friday altered the death sentence imposed by a Sessions Court on the two cab drivers convicted for raping and killing Australian tourist Emily Griggs,to life imprisonment. Noting that the case did not fall under the category of the rarest of rare, the court said it was also not convinced that life imprisonment would be an inadequate punishment for the accused Jyotish Prasad and Ashish Kumar.
The two men had been held guilty by the lower court in August last year of killing the 59-year-old Griggs after assaulting and robbing her.
It is clear that life imprisonment is the rule and death sentence is a rare exception. The Supreme Court has clearly indicated that a death sentence can be imposed only when life imprisonment appears to be an altogether inadequate punishment. We find that the present case does not fall within the category of rarest of the rare cases. Nor are we convinced that life imprisonment would be an altogether inadequate punishment, said Justice B D Ahmed.
In their separate appeals,the convicts had argued that they had been framed by the police due to the urgency to solve the case as soon as possible since a foreign woman was the victim. They had submitted that the trial court had convicted them on the basis of circumstantial evidence,as the investigating agency had failed to collect any direct evidence proving their crime.
It is difficult for us to accept the plea on the part of the appellants that they have been framed in this case. While it may be true that initially this was thought to be a case of looting and murder and that it is only subsequently that the offence of rape was added,it is clear that their crime had tarnished the image of the country and had an adverse impact on tourism, the HC observed.
The HC also pulled up the lower court judge for awarding death penalty and said that in making choice of the sentence,in addition to the circumstances of the offence,due regard must be paid to the circumstances of the offender also. It is clear that each case is different and the trial court,while considering the question of sentence,ought to be concerned about the facts and circumstances of the case before,and not with other cases having similar or similar-looking facts. The court is required to draw up a balance-sheet of aggravating and mitigating factors,if it contemplates the imposition of the extreme penalty, the order read.
Griggs,a teacher,writer and learning consultant,arrived at Delhis Indira Gandhi International Airport from Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific flight around 2 am on the intervening night of March 16 and 17,2004. She was found murdered in a field near the airport,hours after she had taken a pre-paid taxi from there. According to the chargesheet filed at the time,Prasad and Kumar had brutally murdered her and then tried to decamp with her belongings. A supplementary chargesheet accusing the two men of raping Griggs before killing her was filed 115 days after the murder.