The Bombay High Court in State of Maharashtra v Vitthal Tukaram Atugade[Confirmation Case No:1 of 2015] has commuted the death sentence of a 23 year old youth, with sentence of ‘double life’ imprisonment ,which has to run Consecutively. The Court held that even though the crime, committed by the accused was heinous in nature, considering the cumulative effect of the facts and circumstances and on balancing the aggravating and mitigating circumstances of the case, termed that the case doesn’t fit to the category of ‘rarest of rare’ case to be awarded with death penalty.
The facts of the case reveals, that the accused aged 20, was charged with rape and murder of his four old niece, in 2012. Evidence was led in by prosecution, and the accused confessed to have done the crime during interrogation. The accused further made an extra judicial confession voluntarily before his uncle, which was deemed to be admissible by court below.
The Lower court awarded him death penalty in 2015, on dual counts of rape of minor and murder. The same was referred to the Bombay High Court for confirmation and further consequential procedures.
The Bombay High Court through a bench headed by Justice V.K Tahilramani and Justice A.S Gadkari, while partly allowing the appeal by the accused, commuted the sentence of death awarded by court below, with sentence of ‘double life’ imprisonment , which were to run consecutively .The bench even though sustained the conviction of accused under S.376(2)(f) and 302 I.P.C, opined that the case did not fit to the category of ‘rarest of rare’ category to be awarded sentence of death penalty. The court arrived at such conclusion by supplementing its reasoning as follows: “ The mitigating factors are that, on the date of commission of offence, the accused was approximately only 20 years of age. That immediately on the next date i.e. on 7.11.2013 he gave extra judicial confession of his guilt to PW-13 Akaram @ Balaso Atugade, his real uncle. PW-7 Prathamesh who noticed accused firstly on 7.11.2013 in his evidence has stated that the accused was having good character and was good in study at college. It appears from the evidence that the accused was remorseful of his misdeed/crime and therefore at the very first instance he gave the said extra-judicial confession to his uncle Shri Akaram @ Balaso Atugade (PW-13). The accused has no criminal background or any antecedents at his discredit”.
Regarding the commutation of sentence of death penalty with that of double life imprisonment, the bench observed as follows:- “Thus once we draw the balance-sheet of aggravating and mitigating circumstances and examined them in the light of facts and circumstances of the present case, we have no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that this is not a case where the Court ought to have imposed the extreme penalty of death sentence on the accused. In view of the same, we are unable to uphold the confirmation of the death sentence of the accused. We may also note here that we have observed the demeanor of the accused in the Court during the course of hearing of the present appeal and it appeared to us that the accused has remorse for the crime committed by him. We are after taking into consideration the evidence on record, also of the opinion that the accused may not be a threat to the society at large after his release from jail, after he undergoes sentences”.
Read the Judgment here.