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Supreme Court of India

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday sent to gallows a man for kidnapping, raping, and killing a seven-and-half-year-old mentally and physically challenged girl in 2013, saying the crime was of the nature of extreme depravity which shocks the conscience and left no other option but to confirm the death sentence .

Condemned convict Manoj Pratap Singh, then 28 years of age, had kidnapped the physically and mentally challenged minor girl in front of her parents from their fruit and vegetable vending cart on January 17, 2013, brutally raped her at a secluded place before killing her by smashing the head in Rajsamand district, Rajasthan.

We may sum up thus: In the case of the present nature, the crime had been of extreme depravity, which shocks the conscience, particularly looking to the target (a seven-and-a-half-year old mentally and physically challenged girl) and then, looking to the manner of committing murder, where the hapless victim’s head was literally smashed, resulting in multiple injuries including a fracture of frontal bone…, said a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar while upholding the Rajasthan High Court’ verdict confirming the death penalty.

The bench rejected the contention that in the case, hinging on circumstantial evidence, the death penalty should not be awarded saying that if the conviction can be sustained on such proof then the extreme penalty can also be imposed depending on the nature of the offence.

In the present case, where all the elements surrounding the offence as also all the elements surrounding the offender cut across the balance sheet of aggravating and mitigating circumstances, we are clearly of the view that there is absolutely no reason to commute the sentence of death to any other sentence of lesser degree. Even the alternative of awarding the sentence of imprisonment for the whole of the natural life with no remission does not appear justified in view of the nature of crimes committed by the appellant and looking to his incorrigible conduct, Justice Maheshwari, writing the verdict, said.

The top court, in its 129-page judgement, concurred with the findings of the courts below that the offence fell under the rarest of rare categories warranting the imposition of the death penalty on the convict, a native of Maharajganj district in Uttar Pradesh.

It examined the aggravating and mitigating circumstances besides conducting the crime and criminal tests on the convict before awarding the death penalty for the barbaric offence.

The heinous nature of the crime, like that of the present one, in brutal rape and killing of a mentally and physically challenged girl, who was only about seven-and-a-half-year-old, definitely carries excessively aggravating circumstances, particularly when the manner of commission of both the major offences of rape and murder shows the depravity of highest order and would ex facie shock anyone’s conscience, it said while rejecting the appeal of the convict.

The horrific manner of killing the victim, by causing ghastly head injuries had been nothing less than beastly conduct of the appellant, it said.

Refusing to show any leniency, the bench said the mere selection of the target victim by the accused shocks conscience .

“This is apart from the fact that the innocent victim was kidnapped on a stolen motorcycle by misusing the trust gained by the offer of confectionary items and also, apart from the fact that she was brutally and inhumanly raped. Taking up the test parameters pertaining to the criminal (i.e., the appellant), of course, he has a family with a wife and minor daughter and aged father, and the crime was committed when he was only 28 years of age, it said.

However, these mitigating factors are pitted against several other factors pertaining to the convict himself, and one, being his activities and actions before the present crime where he was found involved in at least four cases with serious offences, it said.

Second, being the fact that the present crime itself was carried out with the aid of a stolen motorcycle. Third, and crucial one being his conduct post-conviction where he not only earned seven days’ punishment in jail for quarrelling with a co-inmate but he has been convicted of the offence of murder of another jail inmate, it said.

Read as a whole, the fact-sheet concerning the convict leads only to the logical deduction that there was no possibility that he would not relapse again in this crime if given any indulgence, the judgement said.

A fortiori, there appears no probability of his reformation and rehabilitation. This possibility of the appellant relapsing in the same crime over again and nil probability of his reformation/rehabilitation is a direct challenge as also danger to the maintenance of order in the society, it said.

The facts of the present case, taken as a whole, make it clear that it is unlikely that the convict if given an absolution, would not commit such a crime again, it said.

Consequently, we find it to be a case of no other option but to confirm the death sentence awarded to the appellant, for that being inevitable in this particular case, it said.

The verdict was delivered on appeals against the Rajasthan High Court’s May 29, 2015 verdict affirming the conviction and death penalty awarded by the Court of Special Judge, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Cases, Rajsamand.

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