Millennium Post
Delhi

Jigisha murder: HC commutes death penalty of 2 to life term

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursdsy reduced to life sentence the death penalty awarded to two of the three convicts in the 2009 business executive Jigisha Ghosh murder case, saying the crime did not qualify as "rarest of rare" warranting capital punishment.
A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and I S Mehta while modifying the death penalty awarded to Ravi Kapoor and Amit Shukla, confirmed the life sentence to the third convict, Baljeet Malik, pronounced by the trial court.
Considering the circumstantial evidence which proved the involvement of the convicts in the crime, the bench observed, "In the present case, it is not clear as to which of the three accused - whether all of them or only some of them - actually committed the murder of the deceased".
"What is proved beyond doubt is that all of them were involved in the crime. Therefore, to differentiate, as the trial court has done, between the accused by awarding the death penalty to two of them may also not be justified."
"Having carefully considered the entire case from all perspectives, the court is not satisfied that the crime here can be characterised as 'rarest of rare' that warrants the award of the death penalty for Kapoor and Shukla," the bench said while commuting the death sentence awarded to the duo.
The observation by the high court came while deciding the death reference and the appeals moved by the trio against their conviction and August 22, 2016 order on sentence.
The high court, however, upheld the varying amounts of fine imposed by the trial court on the three.
Kapoor was slapped with a fine of Rs 1.2 lakh by the trial court due to his incapacity to pay, while Shukla and Malik were directed to pay Rs 2.8 lakh and Rs 5.8 lakh respectively as the pre-sentencing report suggested they were financially strong.
The trial court had also directed that out of the total fine of Rs 9.8 lakh, Rs six lakh be paid to the parents of the victim, and an adequate compensation be decided by the District Legal Service Authority (South).
28-year-old Jigisha, an operations manager in a management consultancy firm, was abducted and killed on March 18, 2009 after she was dropped by her office cab around 4 am near her home in Vasant Vihar area of South Delhi.
Her body was recovered three days later from a place near Surajkund in Haryana.
The trial court had held the three men guilty of the offences of murder, abduction, robbery, forgery and common intention under the IPC. Kapoor was also convicted of the offence of using firearms under the Arms Act.
The trio is also facing trial for the murder of TV journalist Soumya Viswanathan, killed a year before Jigisha.
While seeking setting aside of the conviction and order on sentence for Shukla and Malik, their advocate Amit Kumar had contended before the high court that the trial court committed an error by awarding death penalty and life sentence to his clients respectively, simply on the basis of biased jail/probation report about the two.
The high court disagreed with the contention and upheld their conviction, saying the prosecution has been able to successfully prove the circumstances, which conclusively point to the guilt of each of them.
However, it did not concur with the trial court's finding, based on the pre-sentence report (PSR) by a probation officer (PO), that Kapoor and Shukla were not capable of "reform or rehabilitation".
Turning to this aspect, the bench said, "Their conduct in jail as undertrials was a major factor that weighed with the trial court".
"At this juncture, it is necessary to observe that as long as the trial is underway, the prisoner is an undertrial and is not given the same tasks as a convict might be.
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