Death sentence of a rape convict, who had assaulted and inflicted injuries to a four-year-old child in Siwan district of Bihar causing her death, was commuted to life imprisonment by the Supreme Court today.
On thursday, bench of justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai said the nature of offence alone may not be only reason for bringing the case in the rarest of rare category and granted relief to the rape convict saying he is a poor man who had no money to hire lawyer to defend himself and the courts had arranged lawyers for him.
“There can be no doubt that the offence committed by him is heinous and revolting but the nature of the offence alone may not in all cases be the determining factor for bringing the case in the rarest of rare category and to impose the ultimate and irreversible punishment of death,” the bench said.
“The appellant was represented before the trial court by a lawyer appointed by the court from the panel of advocates for undefended accused. Though facing death penalty, he did not file an appeal before the High Court and in this Court his appeal came through the Jail Superintendent. We presume that the appellant did not have sufficient resources to engage a lawyer of his own choice and get himself defended up to his satisfaction,” the bench said.
“We are very clear that the aforesaid facts and circumstances are also relevant factors to be taken into consideration while confirming the death penalty given to an accused,” the bench said.
The trial court had in September 2008 convicted Ram Deo Prasad and awarded him death sentence. Later on, the Patna High Court confirmed the sentence. He then moved a petition in the Supreme Court. In all proceedings in various courts, he did not hire any lawyer for his defence and lawyers were provided to him by courts.
“In the overall case and the reasons discussed above, we feel it quite unsafe to confirm the death sentence awarded to the appellant. Hence, while confirming his conviction under sections 376 and 302 of the Penal Code, we set aside the death sentence given to the appellant and substitute it by imprisonment for life that should not be less than actual imprisonment for a period of 18 years,”.