The Delhi High Court on Tuesday sought the reply of two death row convicts in the 2009 Jigisha Ghosh murder case, whose case file has been sent by the trial court here for confirmation of capital punishment. A bench of justices Gita Mittal and P S Teji also sought personal presence of convicts Ravi Kapoor and Amit Shukla, who were handed down death penalty by the trial court.
The bench, which has fixed the matter for further hearing on November 24, also issued production warrants to the two. The sessions judge had sent the case record relating to the conviction and death sentence of Kapoor and Shukla to the high court.
It is mandatory for a trial court to refer a death penalty case to a high court for confirmation of the sentence within 30 days of the pronouncement of the verdict. The trial court had on July 14 held the duo guilty for murder of 28-year-old IT executive Jigisha Ghosh and other counts.
While sentencing the two to death on August 22, the trial court had said the girl was killed in a “cold-blooded, inhuman and cruel manner” and “brutally mauled to death”. It had said the magnitude and brutality exhibited by the convicts made the case ‘rarest of rare’, warranting capital punishment for Kapoor and Shukla. The third offender Baljeet Malik was given reprieve from the gallows for his good conduct in jail.
The three have challenged their conviction and order on sentence awarded by the trial court, on which the police were asked by the high court to file their response. Kapoor and Shukla in their appeal have said the trial court has “wrongly held that the case falls in the category of rarest of rare”.
Malik, challenging his conviction and sentence of life term through his counsel Amit Kumar, has said the trial court judge has “failed to appreciate that there were contradictions and discrepancies in the depositions of prosecution witnesses (PWs) and, therefore conviction and the sentence awarded to him is liable to be set aside”. Shukla said the trial court has committed grave error by awarding death penalty to him, simply on the basis of biased jail/probation report about his client.
The trial court had imposed varying fines on the convicts. While Kapoor was slapped a fine of Rs 1.2 lakh due to his inability to pay, Shukla and Malik were directed to pay Rs 2.8 lakh and Rs 5.8 lakh respectively as the pre-sentencing report had suggested they were financially strong. The trio are also facing trial for the murder of TV journalist Soumya Viswanathan, killed a year before Jigisha.
It had also directed that out of the total fine of Rs 9.8 lakh, Rs six lakh be paid to the parents of the victim, and an adequate compensation amount be decided by the District Legal Service Authority (South).
The trial court had held the three guilty under several sections of IPC, including 302 (murder), 364 (abducting for murder), 201 (destruction of evidence), 394 (voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating) and 471 (using as genuine a forged document). It, however, held that the charge of criminal conspiracy (120-B of IPC) could not be proved against them.
The police had filed the charge sheet in the case in June 2009, stating that Jigisha’s post-mortem report revealed that she was killed by smothering. The trial in the case began in April 2010. Recovery of the weapon allegedly used in Jigisha’s murder had led to cracking of the murder case of Soumya Vishwanathan, who was a journalist with a news channel.
Soumya was shot dead on September 30, 2008 while she was returning home in her car from office in the wee hours. The police had claimed robbery as the motive behind the killings of both Jigisha and Soumya.