The Punjab and Haryana High Court has commuted death sentence to life imprisonment of a Jhajjar woman, who along with her partner killed her husband in 2013. The High Court has also modified the sentence of her partner from the trial court-awarded ‘life imprisonment till natural death’ to imprisonment for life. The duo were convicted by a trial court in December 2016.
Observing that it is evident that neither of the two convicts are history-sheeters or have any prior criminal antecedents, the division bench of Justices Daya Chaudhary and Surinder Gupta said the it appears that trial Court in sentencing her to death has “drawn reasons by keeping in mind social setup” without considering the fact that she was alleged to be a conspirator while the murder was committed by her co-convict.
“Keeping in view age, antecedents of appellants and facts of the case, we are of the opinion that sentence awarded to them by learned trial court is on higher side and ends of justice shall be fully met if it is reduced to sentence of imprisonment for life to both the convicts.” the judgment dated February 13 read.
A 40-year-old Suresh was found dead on April 9 in 2013 at Gubhana-Bahadurgarh road. While a case for death caused by negligence was registered initially, Suresh’s brother Suraj Mal later moved an application before the police that he has been informed that his brother was last seen with Surender, and also his brother’s son has informed him that Surender used to come to their house at odd hours due to which there was a conflict between his mother and father. Mal also made a request for checking the call detail records of his brother, Pushpa and Surender.
In May 2013, a Khap Panchayat leader of four villages, Shiv Kumar produced Surender before the police and recorded his statement that Surender made an extra-judicial confession before him regarding the killing. A murder case was accordingly registered and both Surender and Pushpa were arrested by the police.
Regarding the extra-judicial confession made before Shiv Kumar, the court has said that it is a well known factor in the state of Haryana that office bearers of khap panchayat, particularly its president, is considered to be a man of authority in his village.
“Though, khap panchayats are not legally recognized body but this fact cannot be overlooked that as on today these panchayats wield a lot of influence on the villagers of their area. Being President of khap panchayat, PW-2 Shiv Kumar was a person having influence and authority and appellant Surender @ Sonu was having reasons to know this,” the court said, adding there is no evidence to prove that the confession was made under any undue influence.
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