"Shocked The Collective Conscience Of Society"; Bombay HC Confirms Death For Five Who Killed Three Men, Acquits One [Read Judgment]

"Shocked The Collective Conscience Of Society"; Bombay HC Confirms Death For Five Who Killed Three Men, Acquits One [Read Judgment]

The Bombay High Court on Monday confirmed death penalty awarded to five men convicted of killing Sandeep Thanwar, Rahul Kandare and Sachin Gharu in 2013. One of the accused, Ashok Navgire was acquitted by the Court due to lack of evidence.

Division bench of Justice BP Dharmadhikari and Justice SK Shinde heard the confirmation case and pronounced the judgment which ran into 133 pages. Court observed-

"We are aware that the accused may not be hardened criminals but the cruel manner in which they have committed the crime and particularly the mutilated dead body of Sachin and their collective efforts to cause disappearance of the body of Sachin and Rahul has shocked the collective conscience of the Society. The present case clearly comes within the category of "rarest and rare case" and therefore we hold, the question of any other punishment is unquestionably foreclosed."

Case Background

All three deceased were working as sweepers at Trimurti Prathisthan College, in Ahmednagar district. Sachin who belonged to the scheduled caste, fell in love with Seema Darandale, who belongs to Maratha caste (upper class). Seema is the daughter of accused no.5-Popat Darandale. She was pursuing B.Ed course in the Trimurti College. When family members learnt about Seema's alleged love affair with Sachin, Ramesh Darandale (accused no.1), Prakash Darandale (accused no.2) both paternal uncles of Seema, Sandeep Kurhe (accused no.3 and relative of Seema), Ashok Navgire (accused no.4), Ramesh Darandale, (accused no.6 and Seema's brother) and one Ashok Falke (accused no.7) hatched the conspiracy to eliminate Sachin Gharu.

As per the prosecution's case, on January 1, 2013, the accused, on the pretext of cleaning septic tank secured presence of Sandeep Thanwar, Sachin Gharu and Rahul Kandare at the farmhouse owned by Seema's father at Darandale Vasti, Sonai, Ahmednagar district. At the instance of accused, all three deceased reached the said farmhouse January 1, 2013 at around 1 pm to clean the septic tanks.

The said farmhouse is situated at an isolated place and abutting the farmhouse were toilet blocks. Since Sandeep Thanwar, did not return home till late evening, his brother Kapil Thanwar, contacted accused no.3-Kurhe, who told him that Sandeep, and his two friends left the farmhouse in the afternoon; however, at 8:30 pm, he was informed that dead-body of Sandeep was found lying in the septic tank of toilet block. Popat, reported accidental, death of Sandeep to the police. A case of accidental death was registered by the police.

On January 2, 2013, on the disclosure of, accused nos.1 and 2, dead-bodies of Sachin Gharu and Rahul Kandare were found, buried in the waterless well in Darandale Vasti. Upper limbs and lower limbs of Sachin were discovered at the instance of accused no.2. Body of Sachin was found beheaded, and as such, offence under Section 302 of the IPC came to be registered on January 2, 2013 at Sonai Police Station.

Sessions Judge convicted 6 of the 7 accused for murder and criminal conspiracy. He submitted the proceedings before the High Court for confirmation of death sentence under Section 366 CrPC.

Judgment

PP Deepak Thakare along with JP Yagnik appeared for the State and sought confirmation of the death sentence.

Advocate Nitin Satpute appeared on behalf of accused Ashok Navgire and argued that there was no sufficient evidence against his client.

Advocate Vijay Hiremath and Dr.Yug Mohit Chaudhary appeared on behalf of the accused and on the aspect of sentencing sought commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment on the following mitigating circumstances :

(i) family circumstances and rural background of accused.

(ii) young age

(iii) absence of criminal antecedents.

(iv) conduct in jail, and

(v) likelihood of reform.

After concluding the investigation, the investigating officer told the Court that the call detail record (CDR) of deceased established that Sachin Gharu, Rahul Kandare and Sandeep Thanwar were at Darandale Vasti on January 1, 2013 since after 1 pm.

Pointing at the brutality involved in killing the three men, Court said-

"All the victims were defenceless and the crime was unprovoked. It is established, the crime was perfectly premeditated and it was committed with brazenness and coldness. The accused vengeance caused the loss of three precious lives. Two were innocents. The evidence shows that accused committed the crime in the most gruesome manner. They intended to hint at, section of the society and set an example as to what happens if one belonging to the lower caste ventures to keep relations with a girl from the upper class of the Society. Thus, the totality of the facts and circumstances, clearly reflects that there is no scope for reform of the accused."

Finally, the Court observed-

"We have considered all aggravating and mitigating circumstances in the present case. Justice demands that, Court should impose punishment befitting the crime. In our considered view, looking at the factors like young age of the accused, absence of criminal antecedents and likelihood of reforms cannot be said to be mitigating circumstances.

Likewise, post crime, conduct of the accused clearly indicates there was no remorse felt by them for the acts committed. We are therefore of the view that family background, absence of criminal antecedents, likelihood of reform of the accused cannot be taken as mitigating circumstances to take the case out of the category of rarest and rare cases. The aggravating circumstances are outweighing the mitigating circumstances and we do not find any justification to convert the death sentence imposed by the Courts below to "life imprisonment for the rest of life"."

Thus, Court affirmed the death sentence awarded to five of the accused and allowed the appeal filed by Navgire, acquitting him of all charges.

Click here to download the Judgment