The Madhya Pradesh High Court commuted to rigorous imprisonment for 20 years the death sentence awarded to a rickshaw driver who was accused of penetrating a four-year-old girl with his finger after a five-day trial.
Rajkumar Kol, who drove the minor to school, was handed capital punishment on July 27 by a special (POCSO) court in Katni. The 33-year-old was arrested on July 7, three days after the incident, and the trial began on July 23.
In his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had cited the five-day trial in Katni as a case that should be publicised so that people with demonic mentality get scared.
A division bench of Chief Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice Vijay Kumar Shukla held that the act of the accused inserting a finger into the private part of the victim amounts to rape under Section 375 of IPC, but the manner in which the offence was committed was not barbaric and brutal.
“We have given our anxious consideration to the material on record and find that though the offence is condemnable, reprehensible, vicious and a deplorable act of violence, the same does not fall within the aggravating circumstances namely extreme depravity and the barbaric manner in which the crime was committed,’’ the bench said.
The bench had heard arguments till September 27 and reserved the judgment.
“Taking into consideration the totality of the facts, nature, motive and the manner of the offence and further that nothing has been brought on record by the prosecution that the accused was having any criminal antecedent,” the bench said, adding the possibility of rehabilitation and reformation has not been ruled out. “Nothing is available on record to suggest that he cannot be useful for the society. In our considered opinion, it is not a case in which the alternative punishment would not be sufficient to the facts of the case.’’
The court fined him Rs 10,000 and two months’ further RI for non-payment of fine.
According to prosecution, the rickshaw driver took the girl to a deserted place after dropping other children to school, and kissed and penetrated her with his finger. The accused pleaded that he was innocent and that he had been falsely implicated. His counsel in the high court argued that conviction and death sentence was not sustainable because there was no allegation of sexual intercourse or penetration and it was a case of only fingering.
The government counsel argued that fingering amounted to intercourse and falls within the definition of rape under Section 375 of the IPC and that the accused had been rightly sentenced to death according to the amended provision of Section 376 AB of the IPC.
The minimum punishment for rape of girls aged 12 or less is 20 years’ rigorous imprisonment.
(With inputs from agencies)
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