Death panelty commuted to life imprisonment by Supreme Court in a murder case (Image: File)

On April 28, the Supreme Court of India commuted the death penalty awarded to a 31-year-old man for murdering his sister Pooja and her lover Govind in 2017, and changed it to life imprisonment. At the time of the murders, the convict was 25 years old.

In the judgment, the court remarked he was “well-behaved” and without a criminal mindset. The verdict was given on the appeals filed by two convicts named Digambar (brother of the deceased) and Mohan (friend of Digambar). While Digambar, who was given the death penalty, got his sentence reduced to life imprisonment, Mohan, who was given life imprisonment, did not get any relief from the court.

A bench headed by Justice BR Gavai set aside the death penalty awarded by the Bombay High Court that was delivered in December 2021. Notably, the High Court had dismissed the appeals against the trial court verdict and upheld the death sentence awarded to Digambar. The three-judge bench comprised Justice BR Gavai, Justice Vikram Nath, and Justice Sanjay Karol.

While passing the judgment, the Supreme Court noted that the only question was whether the murder case fell in the category of “rarest of the rare” cases where the convicts get the death penalty. The bench observed the appellants do not have any criminal antecedents. The bench further observed the convict on death roll was a young man of around 25 years at the time of the crime.

Excerpt from SC judgment. Source: Supreme Court

The bench noted, “The medical evidence would further reveal that the appellants have not acted brutally, inasmuch as there is only a single injury inflicted on both the deceased. As such, we find that the present case cannot be considered to be the ‘rarest of rare’ cases.” Furthermore, the bench observed, “In any case, the report of the Probation Officer, Nanded, as well as the Superintendent, Nashik Road Central Prison would show that the appellant Digambar has been found to be well-behaved, helping and a person with leadership qualities. He is not a person with the criminal mindset and criminal records.”

Excerpt from SC Judgment. Source: Supreme Court

While the court partly allowed the appeal filed by Digambar and reduced the sentence to life imprisonment, it did not find any “reason to interfere” in the sentence awarded to Mohan.

Digambar murdered his sister and her lover

In June 2017, Digambar’s sister was married off to a man. However, she was having an affair with another person for five years. One month after the wedding, she left home in July 2017 without informing anyone. Her husband lodged a missing person report at the police station. Digambar, who was aware of the affair, got suspicious that his sister might have run away with her lover. He tracked them down and killed them. Following the murder, Digambar went to the police station and surrendered. The bench observed, “Though the conviction of the appellant Digambar under section 302 (murder) IPC is maintained, the sentence of capital punishment is commuted to life imprisonment.”