Holding that the manner in which the offence was committed “is not barbaric and brutal”, Madhya Pradesh High Court has commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence awarded to a 40-year-old man convicted of raping a seven-year-old girl in Sagar district on May 21.
The minor was on her way to her aunt’s place when Bhagirath Patel took her to a temple and raped her. He was arrested a day later and the chargesheet filed three days later. A POCSO court awarded him capital punishment on July 7.
Hearing the reference filed by the trial court for confirmation of the death sentence and the appeal by the convict against conviction, a division bench comprising Chief Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice Vijay Kumar Shukla commuted the punishment to “the imprisonment for life which shall mean imprisonment for natural life”.
The court referred to the medical report which stated that hymen was ruptured but there was no external injury.
The bench said though “the offence is condemnable, reprehensible, vicious, and a deplorable act of violence”, there are no “aggravating circumstances” like “extreme depravity and barbaric manner” in which the crime was committed. The bench observed that the accused did not have any criminal antecedent and there was a possibility of rehabilitation and reformation. “Nothing is available on record to suggest that he cannot be useful for the society. In our considered opinion, it is not a case in which the alternative punishment would not be sufficient to the facts of the case,” it said.
Quoting Criminal Law (amendment) Act that sanctions death penalty for rape of girls below 12 years of age, government advocate Namrata Agrawal had argued that the accused had been rightly awarded death penalty. Advocates Manish Tiwari and Vinod Tiwari, appearing for the appellant, argued that the conviction of death sentence is not sustainable and quoted Supreme Court judgments to argue that the case does not meet “the rarest of rare case” condition.