15 Sep 2023 4:51 PM GMT
The Bombay High Court on Friday commuted the death sentence to 25-year fixed-term imprisonment for a 36 years old labour, convicted for raping and murdering a six-year-old child.The division bench of Justice Vibha Kankanwadi and Justice Abhay S Waghwase observed that the trial court did not consider mitigating factors, including the convict's background and the absence of any prior...
The Bombay High Court on Friday commuted the death sentence to 25-year fixed-term imprisonment for a 36 years old labour, convicted for raping and murdering a six-year-old child.
The division bench of Justice Vibha Kankanwadi and Justice Abhay S Waghwase observed that the trial court did not consider mitigating factors, including the convict's background and the absence of any prior criminal record while awarding the death penalty.
“this is a case no doubt of a minor aged 6 years being first raped, sodomized and then done to death. There is no further doubt that the murder is also in a brutal manner. However, it is also to be borne in mind that it was not a case of planned act. Finding the child sitting alone that day, he seems to have taken her to the remote place. His background shows that his wife has left his company and at the time of incidence, he was of 35 years of age and admittedly had no criminal record till then”, the court observed.
The court emphasised that the trial court must consider whether life imprisonment is unquestionably ruled out and must provide "special reasons" specific to the case for award of death penalty. However, in the present case, the trial court neither considered alternate sentence nor assigned any special reason for the death sentence, the court observed.
A “Social Investigation Report” put independently by Sangerao’s lawyers revealed the loss of his father, lack of education, abuse of mother, inadequate nutrition, hard childhood labour, and lack of care and attention.
Sangerao, currently lodged in Yerwada Central Prison, Pune, had been employed by the victim's family to herd buffaloes, and he was well-acquainted with the girl and her family. On January 20, 2021, the child’s parents took her along to their agricultural field, where Sangerao joined them. She ran to Sangerao, who she used to address as "uncle".
According to the prosecution, when the parents called out to Sangerao, he and the child were nowhere to be found. Eventually, the child's lifeless, naked body was discovered near a river with numerous injuries and bite marks. Sangerao, also found naked nearby, confessed to raping and murdering the child.
A Special Judge under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act) convicted him under Sections 302, 363, 376(A), 376(2) (j)(m), 376-AB, 377 of the IPC and Sections 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 of the POCSO Act and imposed a death penalty. Thus, the state approached the High Court for confirmation of the death penalty and Sangerao approached the High Court in appeal against the conviction.
The court relied on the following circumstantial evidence presented by the prosecution to uphold the conviction:
1. Sangerao was the last person seen in the company of the victim.
2. He made a voluntary, extra-judicial confession.
3. He was apprehended in a naked condition near the crime scene.
4. Sangerao’s clothes and belongings were seized from the crime scene.
5. The DNA report indicated a match between the samples collected from Sangerao and the deceased.
The court acknowledged some doubts about the DNA report but observed that it was not the sole evidence and there was other overwhelming evidence indicating Sangerao's involvement.
Psychological assessments conducted as part of the proceedings indicated that Sangerao had mild to moderate intellectual disability. The reports suggested that structured guidance and rehabilitation could help him reintegrate into society. His conduct was found satisfactory by the jail authorities.
The court held that the prosecution did not show that Sangerao has a natural inclination to commit such offences again and expose the society to danger. The court added that his post-conviction behaviour inside the prison showed possibility of reformation.
The court concluded that the case did not fall into the category of "rarest of the rare" and death penalty was not justified.
“…accused has victimized a tender sole for satisfying his lust by inflicting multiple grievous sexual assault and further throttled her to death and in inhuman manner. Though this is one of the most unfortunate and grave offence, but equally not a crime which gravitates only and only death penalty by holding it to be falling in the “rarest of the rare” category”, the court held.
The court recognized the gravity of the crime as it involved a brutal sexual assault on a minor, and the victim was betrayed after addressing Sangerao as her "uncle." Thus, he is not entitled to be released on completion of 14 years, said the court.
The court imposed a non-remittable fixed-term imprisonment of 25 years each for offences of murder, rape, and sexual assault under the POCSO Act. These sentences will run concurrently.
The court did not direct payment of monetary compensation to the child's family, as Sangerao, did not have sufficient means to pay compensation. However, the court directed the District Legal Services Authority, Nanded (DLSA) to expedite the process of granting compensation under Section 357-A of the CrPC.
Advocates Rebecca Gonsalvez, Shreya Rastogi, Pratiksha Basarkar and Vishal Bagdiya represented Sangerao.
APP RV Dasalkar represented the State.
Advocate RM Deshmukh represented the victim's father.
Case no. – Criminal Confirmation Case No. 01 of 2021
Case Title – State of Maharashtra v. Baburao Ukandu Sangerao
Click Here To Read/Download Judgment