In a breather to two men, the Bombay High Court bench of Justices Vinay Deshpande and Amit Borkar at the Nagpur seat on Tuesday commuted their death sentence into life till death in jail. The duo was given death sentence by a special court for gang raping a minor girl, who belonged to the SC ST category.
The bench was seized with appeals filed by Sagar Borkar and Nikhil Golait, both challenging their death sentence imposed by a special POCSO court in Buldhana.
The special court had in August last year awarded death sentence to both the men, for gang raping the nine year old girl.
According to the prosecution case, in April 2019, both Borkar and Golait had been near the victim's house and were under the influence of alcohol. The victim was sleeping in her tin shed house, along with her two younger sisters and parents.
While Borkar was a known to victim's family, Golait wasn't. The duo picked up the girl from her house while the family was sleeping and took her to a dark place near a temple and raped her by turns. They then threatened her of dire consequences and asked her not to tell anyone about the incident.
However, by the time the victim was returning home at 2:50 am in the night, her parents had already started to search her and found her in a bad condition with her dress drenched in blood.
Upon being asked, the victim narrated her ordeal to her parents and subsequently an FIR was lodged and the accused came to be arrested.
The special court relied on the medical evidence of the victim, which concluded that there were around six injuries on her private part. It also relied on the testimony of a watchman, who had seen the duo with the victim on the bike. It also considered the DNA test reports and accordingly convicted them under charges of kidnapping, gang rape, relevant provisions of POCSO and also of the SC ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
In the HC, Justice Deshpande led bench agreed with the findings of the special court on conviction but differed on the point of punishment.
The bench relied upon a recent judgment of the Supreme Court by which the top court had held that death isn't the only punishment for gang rape of a minor girl.
"The law as laid down by the Apex Court states that on previous occasion also the accused must be convicted for the heinous offence, which is not the present case," the bench said, adding, "Further, the state hasn't shown that the accused persons are menace to the society, we find ourselves disagreeing with the said punishment imposed by the special court."
Accordingly, the judges, commuted the death sentence. "The accused to now suffer rigorous imprisonment for life, which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of their natural life and without any remission," the bench held.