Citing absence of criminal antecedents & also the possibility of reform, the High Court has commuted the death penalty awarded to a youth who had raped & murdered an eight-year-old girl in Aug 2012 to 25-year imprisonment.
Saleem, a tailor by profession & resident of Goripalya in Bengaluru, will have to serve the jail term without any remission & also pay a fine of ₹1 lakh.
He was also sentenced to 10-year imprisonment & levied a fine of ₹1 lakh fine to be paid to the girl’s mother & ₹10,000, which will vest with the state.
Quoting several Apex Court judgments, a division bench comprising of Justice Ravi Malimath & Justice HP Sandesh has said the imposition of life sentence is not adequate & a death penalty is too excessive as the case on hand doesn’t fall under “rarest of the rare “ category.
Saleem was 29 when he committed the offence. He had gone to his elder sister’s house at Janata Colony in Tavarekere on the outskirts of Bengaluru. He was staying alone in the house as his sister had gone to her parents’ home. The girl lived next door & was in class 3. Her mother worked in an incense stick manufacturing unit.
Around 7pm on Aug 15, 2012, Saleem asked the girl to buy beedis for him. At that time, her mother was busy preparing dinner. When the girl returned, Saleem closed the main door of the house & raped her. He smothered her to death when she tried to raise alarm.
Neighbours caught Saleem & thrashed him before handing him over to police. Acting on the girl’s complaint, Tavarekere police probe the matter & filed the charge sheet. On January 23, 2018, the third additional district & sessions court in Ramanagara convicted Saleem for offenses under IPC Section 302 (murder) & Section 376 (rape).
The next day, the court awarded him death penalty. It also sentenced him to 10 years imprisonment & a fine of ₹50,000 for rape.
In view of the death penalty, the matter was referred to the high court for confirmation as provided under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) section 366(1).
Saleem’s Counsel claimed the Trial Court failed to consider the contradictions in the statements of the girl’s mother & other prosecution witnesses & also there was a failure to explain the injuries sustained by him.
However, the state public prosecutor contended that the accused did not deny the allegations nor did he say the murder was committed by some other individual.
“The evidence of prosecution witnesses & the doctor’s evidence not only corroborates that the accused not only raped the girl, but also committed the murder in a cruel manner & he sustained the injuries while committing the crime,” argued the prosecutor.
The Judgement has been delivered by Justice Ravi Malimath & Justice HP Sandesh.