New Delhi: The Supreme Court has stayed the operation of death sentence awarded to a man in a case of gang-rape of a seven-year-old girl in Madhya Pradesh in 2018.

While hearing an appeal filed by the convict against the Madhya Pradesh High Court verdict of September last year affirming the capital punishment, a bench headed by Justice U U Lalit said that pending further consideration, the operation of death sentence awarded to him shall remain stayed.

The apex court, which said that psychological evaluation report of the convict be placed before it, directed that report of the jail administration concerned about the nature of work done by the appellant while in jail be also placed.

Pending further consideration, the effect and operation of death sentence awarded to the appellant shall remain stayed. Let an intimation in this regard be sent to the prison concerned immediately, the bench, also comprising Justices S R Bhat and P S Narasimha, said in its February 14 order.

The top court was hearing an appeal filed by the appellant challenging the high court judgement which had affirmed the death sentence awarded to him and one other convict in the case by the trial court.

The bench said the state shall place before it the reports of all probation officers relating to the appellant before the next date of hearing.

We also feel that the interest of justice dictates that we obtain a psychological evaluation of the appellant. We direct the Director, Mental Care Hospital, District Indore, Madhya Pradesh to constitute a suitable team for psychological evaluation of the accused/appellant in this case and send a report before the next date of hearing, it said.

The bench directed that authorities of jail, where the appellant is presently lodged, shall render complete co-operation in facilitating access to and due evaluation of the convict in all respects.

The apex court has posted the matter for further hearing on March 22.

In its verdict, the high court had confirmed the death sentence awarded by a trial court in August 2018 to the two convicts in the case.

In June 2018, the grandmother of the girl had lodged a report at a police station in Mandsaur that the child was missing from her school premises after the classes were over for the day.

The police registered the case and on the next date, the girl was found in an injured condition and was taken to a hospital.

The girl was provided treatment and she narrated the incident to the police about how she was taken to a secluded spot and was sexually assaulted.

After considering the evidence, the trial court had awarded death penalty to the two convicts.

The facts of the present case reveal an ominous plot hatched by the appellants seeking to satiate their lust by breaching the confidence of the minor prosecutrix girl and then heaping miseries upon her by committing such forceful aggravated penetrative sexual assault which is most ruthless in nature, the high court had said in its judgement.

The high court had also observed that rights of the victim cannot take a back seat while considering the rights of the accused persons.

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