The Supreme Court (2:1) upheld the death sentence awarded to a man involved in gang rape of a ten year old girl and thereafter murdering her and her brother.
Mohanakrishnan, a priest, and Manoharan were accused of the heinous crime of causing death of minor children. Mohanakrishnan was killed in a police encounter. Manoharan was tried and sentenced to death by the Trial Court, which was later confirmed by the Madras High Court. The appeal filed by Manoharan against the High Court judgment was heard by a three judge bench comprising of Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Sanjeev Khanna.
While confirming the death sentence, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice Surya Kant observed:
We have no doubt that the trial court and High Court have correctly applied and balanced aggravating circumstances with mitigating circumstances to find that the crime committed was cold blooded and involves the rape of a minor girl and murder of two children in the most heinous fashion possible. No remorse has been shown by the Appellant at all and given the nature of the crime as stated in paragraph 84 of the High Court's judgment it is unlikely that the Appellant, if set free, would not be capable of committing such a crime yet again. The fact that the Appellant made a confessional statement would not, on the facts of this case, mean that he showed remorse for committing such a heinous crime. He did not stand by this confessional statement, but falsely retracted only those parts of the statement which implicated him of both the rape of the young girl and the murder of both her and her little brother.
In the judgment, the court also referred to the 2018 amendment to The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. It noticed that the death penalty has also been introduced vide the said amendment. The Court said:
"On the facts of the present case there is no doubt that aggravated penetrative sexual assault was committed on the 10 year old girl by more than one person. The 10 year old girl child (who was below 12 years of age) would fall within Section 5 (m) of the POCSO Act. There can be no doubt that today's judgment is in keeping with the legislature's realisation that such crimes are on the rise and must be dealt with severely."
Recent judgment upholding death penalty imposed on Khushwinder Singh, convicted of murdering six persons belonging to a family, out of which two were minors – below 10 years of age, was also referred by the Court. The present case consists of a crime even more shocking than that in Khushwinder's case (supra), in as much as a young 10 year old girl has first been horribly gang-raped after which she and her brother aged 7 years were done away with while they were conscious by throwing them into a canal which caused their death by drowning, the court added.
Justice Khanna dissented
However, Justice Sanjiv Khanna dissented with the confirmation of death sentence and opined that the case does not fall under the category of 'rarest of rare' case, but would fall within the special category of cases, where the appellant should be directed to suffer sentence for life i.e. till his natural death, without remission/commutation.
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