A city court today awarded life imprisonment till death to a 22-year-old man for raping and killing an 81-year-old widow at her South Delhi residence two years ago, saying it was a “brutal and diabolic” act. “Keeping in view facts and circumstances of the case, I sentence the convict to undergo rigorous imprisonment for life which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of his natural life or death,” Additional Sessions Judge Sanjiv Jain said while handing down the jail term to Neeraj Safi, the victim’s servant who raped and killed her in her Greater Kailash-II house on July 7, 2014.
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“In the instant case, the convict not only committed the vile act upon the victim, an old lady aged 81 years, but also strangled her to death. He was her full-time servant and was engaged to take care of her. He set the victim on fire after cutting pieces of mattress and using kerosene oil. The act of the convict was brutal and diabolic,” the judge said.
The court, which said he committed a heinous offence and betrayed the trust of his master who was an aged lady, refused to award death sentence, considering Safi’s age and clean antecedents.
“It is also true that the convict is a young man aged 22, and does not have previous record of conviction and his parents are old and poor, but it is still noted that he committed rape and murder of his master aged 81 years who used to live alone. He betrayed her trust and did heinous offence.
“On considering the facts and circumstances of the case, balancing the interest of the society at large and the rights of the convict, I am of the view that this case does not fall under the category of rarest of rare case warranting death sentence,” it said.
The court also observed that “brutality in taking away the life of the victim is only one of the factors which is required to be taken into consideration for coming to the conclusion that the case in hand is one of the rarest of rare ones,” adding that it has to strike a balance between aggravating and mitigating circusmtances.
Besides the jail term, the court also imposed a fine of Rs 18,000 on him considering his poor background.
Special Public Prosecutor A T Ansari, who was also the prosecutor in the December 16, 2012 gangrape case, had termed the incident as “more gruesome” than the Nirbhaya case which had triggered a public outcry across the country.
The SPP hailed the judgement, saying “I am satisfied that the accused has been held guilty on all counts of charge. This is one of the few cases I have dealt with in recent past including Nirbhaya case where accused demonstrated exceptional depravity and extreme brutality.”
The victim’s family, however, expected harsher punishment for the convict.
“Justice has been delivered. However, we were expecting a harsher punishment. Till now, we have not gone through the verdict. The moment we go through it, we will take our call accordingly,” said the victim’s daughter.
The court had on January 31 this year, convicted Saifi of offences under sections 302 (murder), 376 (rape) and 201 (destruction of evidence) of IPC.
The police, in its charge sheet, had said that on July 7, 2014, the convict raped Rekha Duggal, who used to stay alone since her husband died in 2005, and then strangled her with her ‘chunni’.
The convict, who hails from Madhubani in Bihar, had then set the body of the victim on fire using kerosene and dragged it to an adjacent room, the police had said.
After killing her, Safi tried to mislead neighbours and the police about her whereabouts stating that she had not returned from her evening walk in a nearby park, the police had said.
The trial began on November 8, 2014 and was conducted on a daily basis for some time. However, due to pendency of forensic reports, it was discontinued.
The judgement in the case was reserved in July 2016, after the hearing of the final arguments.