INDIA: SUPREME COURT COMMUTES DEATH PENALTY TO LIFE IMPRISONMENT FOR MAN CONVICTED FOR RAPE, MURDER OF 2-YEAR-OLD
November 2, 2020:
The Supreme Court on 2 November 2020 commuted to life imprisonment the death penalty awarded to a Maharashtra man convicted of raping and killing a 2-year-old infant in 2013. (Sources: Bar and Bench, 2/11/2020)
A three-judge Bench of Justices UU Lalit, Indu Malhotra and Krishna Murari upheld the conviction handed down by the Bombay High Court to Shatrughna Baban Meshram, who had raped and killed the child after taking her away from the custody of her grandfather.
While doing so, the Bench commuted the punishment of death penalty for the offence of murder to life imprisonment, and for the offence of rape to rigorous imprisonment for 25 years.
Meshram was the son of the victim's grandfather's cousin brother. The victim was with her grandfather, Pundlik when the accused approached him and took away the child stating that the father of the victim was back from work and he had asked him (Meshram) to bring the victim.
The father of the victim, who had gone to attend some religious function found that the child was not in the house when he returned. On being asked about the whereabouts of the victims, Pundlik informed the father that the accused had taken away the child from his house. The father, grandfather, and one Shrawan Meshram proceeded for the search of the child in the village and eventually found the victim child lying at a partially constructed building of an Anganwadi. The accused was also at the spot. The victim was discovered with severe injuries including bites on her lips and cheeks and swelling in her private parts.
She was then taken to a doctor, who declared her dead. Meshram was charged with rape, murder and offences under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
The Sessions Judge at Yavatmal found Meshram guilty of the charges and sentenced him to death. The same was upheld by a Division Bench of Bombay High Court on 12 October 2015, leading to the present appeal in the Supreme Court.