New Delhi: Observing that the convict was young and had no previous criminal record, the Supreme Court has altered to life imprisonment the death sentence given to a rapist who murdered a three-year-old baby after raping her.
A bench of justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar, however, ruled that Amit will have to undergo life imprisonment for the rest of his life, subject to any remission or commutation by the government for "good and sufficient reasons".
On March 19, 2005, Amit had committed the heinous offence under the limits of Daurala Police Station in Uttar Pradesh`s Meerut district on Monika.
The convict, a neighbour of the family, had taken out the girl from the lap of her grandmother Manno on the pretext of giving biscuits to her.
The session’s court awarded him death sentence which was upheld by the Allahabad High Court following which he appealed in the apex court.
"In the present case also, we find that when the appellant committed the offence he was a young person aged about 28 years only.
There is no evidence to show that he had committed the offences of kidnapping, rape or murder on any earlier occasion.
"There is nothing on evidence to suggest that he is likely to repeat similar crimes in future. On the other hand, given a chance he may reform over a period of years," Justice Patnaik writing the judgement said.
The bench, however, rejected Amit`s argument that his conviction cannot be sustained as it was mainly based on the testimony of Manno who according to him was a interested witnesses.
"An interested witness must have some direct interest in having the accused somehow convicted for some extraneous reason and a near relative of the victim is not necessarily an interested witness.
"There is no evidence to show that PW-3 (Manno) was somehow interested in having the appellant convicted," the bench said.
The apex court considered an earlier ruling of a three- judge bench in a similar case that instead of death sentence a life imprisonment should be awarded with a direction that life sentence imposed will extend to the full life of the appellant but subject to any remission or commutation at the instance of the government for good and sufficient reasons.
"Hence, following the judgement of the three-judge bench in Rameshbhai Chandubhai Rathod (2) vs State of Gujarat, we convert the death sentence awarded to the appellant to imprisonment for life and direct that the life sentence of the appellant will extend to his full life subject to any remission or commutation at the instance of the government for good and sufficient reasons."