Minor rape and death: HC commutes death sentence of convict to life

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Chennai, Apr 27 (PTI) The Madras High Court has reduced the death sentence awarded by a lower court to life term in a sensational rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl in Coimbatore in 2019, which sent shock waves in Tamil Nadu.

'We are satisfied that this case does not come within the category of rarest of rare cases by applying the principles laid down by the Supreme Court,' the division bench, comprising Justices P N Prakash and V Sivagnanam said and commuted the death sentence of Santosh Kumar on Monday.

The bench was disposing of a referred trial by the Thudialur police, seeking to confirm the sentence and a criminal appeal from the accused, challenging the December 27, 2019 order of the Sessions Court, Special Court for the Exclusive trial of cases under the POCSO Act in Coimbatore.

The bench said 'it has not been demonstrated to us that the appellant (Santhosh Kumar) was addicted to crime and that he is a menace to society, thereby ruling out any possibility of reformation.' 'In the facts of this case, we are unable to persuade ourselves to hold that a sentence lesser than the death penalty is completely foreclosed.

As life imprisonment is the rule and death sentence is the exception, the sentence of death awarded by the trial Court is commuted to imprisonment for life with the rider that the appellant will not be entitled to any statutory remission or commutation until he has completed 25 years of actual imprisonment,' the bench ruled.

'We are entitled to say so in law in the light of the judgment of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court...', the judges said.

The bench confirmed the conviction of the appellant under Section 302 IPC, but, modified the same to one of imprisonment for life with the rider.

The appellant is also liable to pay the fine of Rs one lakh, in default thereof, to undergo simple imprisonment for one more year, the judges added.

The judges also upheld a direction of the trial court to the Coimbatore SP to appoint a female Investigating Officer to conduct further investigation in the case as the DNA report had suggested the role of another male in the crime.

The bench also affirmed the compensation of Rs 10 lakh awarded by the trial Court to be paid to Vanitha, the mother of the victim girl. The amount shall be paid within three months, the judges added. PTI COR SA APR ADMINISTRATOR APR ADMINISTRATOR