Bombay HC commutes death sentence of man convicted for killing 4-year-old girl.

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday commuted the death sentence of a resident of Bhiwandi to life imprisonment for the murder of a four-year-old girl in April 2018. The convict, who was 20 years old at the time of the incident, had murdered the daughter of a man who slapped him for failing to clear pending dues of Rs 1,500. As per the police, the girl went missing on April 1, 2018 and her partially decomposed body was found three days later with a head injury and her hands and right leg hacked. “The tragic death of the girl child came to light on April 2018, when her almost decomposed body was found in an abandoned state in the thorny bushes of an open land, which was used by the locals for defecating,” the bench noted.

As per the Bhiwandi Police, the girl was murdered to exact revenge from her father. The child went to play near her house on April 1, but never returned home. On April 4, the police found her body 300 metres away from her house. The High Court on Tuesday passed a judgment in the state’s plea through government lawyer Arfan Sait, seeking confirmation of the death sentence awarded on March 8, 2019 by the Additional Sessions Judge & Special Judge, Thane to Mohammad Aabed Mohammad Ajmir Shaikh. Shaikh was arrested from his native place in Bihar and after completion of the probe and trial, was convicted for raping and killing the girl.

The HC also quashed and set aside the conviction against the man under Section 376 (Punishment for rape) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), along with provisions of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012. “It can be said that a young lad who was hardly 20 years old had suddenly thought of seeking vengeance for the humiliation that he faced at the hands of the girl’s father. There is no material to show that he was overpowered by lust. There is no evidence of sexual assault,” a division bench of Justice Sadhana S Jadhav and Justice Prithviraj K Chavan observed. However, it maintained the conviction under Section 302 (Punishment for murder) on the basis of his “extra-judicial” confession to his roommate, a person who hailed from the convict’s native village, and a co-worker, that the accused had “reposed faith in him and therefore admitted his guilt to him.”

The HC however, modified the sentence to life imprisonment, holding that it was not “the rarest of rare case.” The court also noted that since the accused had abducted the victim from lawful custody of her father, conviction and sentence under Section 363 (Kidnapping) and 201 (Causing disappearance of evidence of offence) of the IPC deserves to be maintained. The bench observed, “The accused is a young man. At the time of commission of the offence, the accused was hardly 20 years of age. Satisfaction of personal vendetta had overpowered him momentarily and in that moment of deprivation of self control, he had committed the offence.”

It added, “… The material on record indicates that the appellant is not a hardened criminal and therefore, there is every hope that he could be reformed, rehabilitated and reintegrated into the society.” The bench rejected the argument made by advocates Payoshi Roy and Yug Mohit Chaudhry, representing the convict, that “extra-judicial confession” is weak evidence and their client cannot be convicted on the basis of the same. Disposing the plea, the HC directed the District Legal Services Authority, Thane to pay Rs 5 lakh compensation to the girl’s father within six months.

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