11 Sep 2023 5:45 AM GMT
The Calcutta High Court has upheld the conviction of four persons under Section 302 and 376(2)(g) of the IPC, for the rape and murder of a minor girl in 2004.However, refusing to impose punishment of death penalty, a bench of Justices Joymalya Bagchi and Gaurang Kanth referred to Supreme Court’s decision in Bachan Singh’s case and held:It is true the appellants have perpetrated the...
The Calcutta High Court has upheld the conviction of four persons under Section 302 and 376(2)(g) of the IPC, for the rape and murder of a minor girl in 2004.
However, refusing to impose punishment of death penalty, a bench of Justices Joymalya Bagchi and Gaurang Kanth referred to Supreme Court’s decision in Bachan Singh’s case and held:
It is true the appellants have perpetrated the most brutal act of rape and murder of a minor child. The offence is a heinous one and needs strongest condemnation from society. However, nature and gravity of offence is not the only criteria on which imposition of death penalty depends…the Court must satisfy its conscience that the possibility of reformation and rehabilitation of the convict is completely ruled out and the sentence of life imprisonment is thereby rendered inadequate. Reports have been filed before us. All the reports show that their conduct in jail is satisfactory. In these circumstances after lapse of 17 years I do not find any justification to enhance the life sentences of the appellants to the extreme and irreversible sentence of death.
On 7th January 2004, when a local policeman was on patrolling duty, he found the lifeless body of a minor girl in an abandoned steel factory, with injuries on her face, and a white scarf knotted around her neck and reported the same to his duty officer, leading to the registration of an FIR.
Various items were seized from the crime scene including used footwear, and a button torn from a shirt. Medical examination of the victim revealed that she had been raped and murder.
Subsequently, when the girl's parents approached the police on the 9th of January, they claimed that their daughter had been missing from the 4th of January.
Further forensic tests revealed that the evidence found from the crime scene such as the button and footwear, as well as semen stains found from the body of the victim had matched with the appellants
Police upon investigation found that prior to the murder of the minor, the appellants had approached her father at their residence and demanded money for purchase of liquor. When they were denied the same, they assaulted her father, and subsequently an FIR had been registered.
At trial, the appellants pleaded not guilty, and complained of false implication, but the trial judge passed sentences of conviction, and imposed life sentences on them in 2007.
At the time of admission of the present appeal in 2007, a coordinate bench of the High Court had imposed sue moto Rule against the appellants and directed them to show cause as to why the death sentence should not be imposed upon them.
Proceedings before the High Court
Counsel for the appellants argued that their guilt had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt, and that the victim had gone missing on 4th January, but no missing complaint had been registered, till the parents showed up at the police station on the 9th of January in the most “unnatural and unexplained way.”
It was argued that the recovery of the victim’s corpse from the steel factory was also unnatural, since there was no explanation for a patrol officer to enter an abandoned steel factory during his regular rounds, and that the same be taken with a pinch of salt.
Appellants further argued that the various pieces of evidence tying the appellants to the crime scene had been planted during the course of the searches and that while evidence had been manufactured, the motive was too tenuous to be believed.
State on the other hand, argued that motive had been proved, since the appellants had earlier approached the victim’s father for money to purchase liquor, and upon refusal assaulted him.
It was argued that there were eyewitness accounts the appellants entering the abandoned building with the minor, and that all the evidence recovered from the crime scene had been corroborated with the appellants possessions during the course of investigation.
Upon hearing the arguments, the Court looked at the circumstances surrounding the minor’s disappearance. It was noted that on the 4th of January, the victim’s mother had reported taking her to a local polio camp, where she was given two whistles, which were later recovered near her dead body.
It dismissing the appellants argument that delay in reporting the victim missing by her parents “struck at the root of the prosecution case,” the Court observed that since the victim had been habituated to visiting her grandmothers place nearby, without informing her parents, they were not immediately alarmed by her absence.
Court noted that when the parents started searching for her after a couple of days, they visited the local police station, and being illiterate persons with limited means, their conduct had to be viewed in light of the aforesaid circumstances, leading to the delay in lodging a missing complaint not having any impact on the prosecution case.
In noting the credibility of the eyewitnesses who alluded to seeing the appellants taking the minor to the building where her body was later recovered from, the Court observed that medical reports had proven that the victim had suffered blunt injuries to her head, along with “sexual violence from more than one person,” leading to semen of one of the appellants being found on her person during forensic testing.
Court took note of the earlier FIR filed by the minor’s father against the appellants, who assaulted him for refusing them money for alcohol and held that motive to commit had been clearly proven as well, since they “nursed a grudge to commit the brutal crime.”
Accordingly, the conviction of the appellants and their life sentence was upheld, but the Court disposed of the suo moto Rule by a coordinate bench in 2007, by refusing to impose the death penalty on the appellants, since they “had shown reform during two decades of incarceration.”
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Cal) 273
Case: Samsuddin Sk. & Ors. Vs. State of West Bengal
Case No: CRA 273 of 2007 with CRR 2724 of 2007
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