INDIA: SC COMMUTES DEATH PENALTY FOR MAN SAYING ''HIS CONDUCT IN JAIL WAS NOT SHOWN TO BE UNWORTHY OF CONCESSION.''
January 6, 2013: the Supreme Court in Mumbai, India, commuted a death sentence to life for a 23-year-old man who killed a 65-year-old woman and raped her pregnant 25-year-old granddaughter-in-law in an upscale Pune neighbourhood in September 2007.
The convict, Sandesh Abhang, had stabbed the old woman 21 times and then raped her granddaughter-in-law, stabbed her 19 times, including in her neck, and left believing her to be dead. The SC bench of Justices Swatantar Kumar and Madan Lokur observed that though the accused had committed a very "heinous and brutal crime", a "vital factor" that he "may not have been aware of what he was doing as he smelled of alcohol'' could not be ruled out and hence his "abnormal behaviour" was relevant in holding against death penalty. The SC said to kill, "it was not expected of him to inflict 21and 19 injures on their bodies respectively. He could have simply given an injury on the vital parts of their bodies and put them to death... amputating the fingers clearly reflects the conduct of an abnormal person". The convict had sought leniency on the grounds that he was drunk and unaware of his own actions. The SC said that in cases of capital punishment, reformation was a relevant criterion. In this case, it reasoned that the convict was young, had "no criminal involvement in similar crimes'' and "no evidence (had been) produced by the Maharashtra government'' to show that he was a hardened criminal incapable of being reformed. The Bombay high court bench of Justices B H Marlapalle and Abhay Thipsay had in March 2011 upheld the death sentence awarded by a sessions court. The HC said Abhang should be shown no mercy as he was incapable of remorse or reform but the SC disagreed and said ''his conduct in jail was not shown to be unworthy of concession.'' (Sources: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india, 06/01/2013)