The Delhi High Court on Thursday commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence of two convicts accused of murdering in 2009 IT executive Jigisha Ghosh.
Justice S. Murlidhar and Justice I.S. Mehta modified the death sentence awarded to Ravi Kapoor and Amit Shukla by the Trial Court and said they would serve life imprisonment.
“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 High Court said.
“The Court accordingly modifies the sentence awarded to Kapoor and Shukla for the offence under sections 302/34 IPC (murder with common intention) to one of imprisonment for life,” the judges said.
The two death row convicts had challenged the Trial court’s conviction and sentence. The trial court had sentenced a third offender, Baljeet Malik, to life imprisonment for his good conduct in jail.
On July 14, 2016, the trial court held them guilty of the murder.
The High Court said it was not clear which of the three accused – whether all of them or only some of them – committed the murder of Jigisha.
“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,” said the court.
The bench said that in any event the behaviour of a prisoner during his term as an under trial cannot be a sufficient marker for his potential for reform and rehabilitation.
“…It might be unsafe to conclusively determine, even while the prisoner is an under trial, that his conduct in prison can indicate his capacity for reformation. Such a determination would require observing the prisoner over some period of time separated sufficiently in time and circumstance,” said the bench.
The High Court said that proved circumstances point “unerringly” to the guilt of the accused.
The 28-year-old Operations Manager at Hewitt Associates in Noida was abducted after an office car dropped her around 4 a.m. near her Delhi home.
The trial court had said she was killed in a “cold-blooded, inhuman and cruel manner” and “brutally mauled to death”.
It had said that the “magnitude and brutality” exhibited by the three made the case “rarest of rare”, warranting capital punishment for Kapoor and Shukla.
Ghosh was also robbed of her gold jewellery, two mobile phones and debit and credit cards. Her body was found near Surajkund in Haryana, about 20 km from her Vasant Vihar home.
The police had arrested the three within a week following digital footprints after the suspects used Ghosh’s ATM cards to buy expensive goggles, wrist watches and shoes at Sarojini Nagar Market in Delhi.
Malik’s hand tattoo busted the gang as the surveillance camera at a shop captured the image when the three were out shopping.
The trial court had held the three guilty under several sections of the Indian Penal Code, including murder, abducting for murder, destruction of evidence, voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery, forgery for purpose of cheating and using as genuine a forged document.
However, the charge of criminal conspiracy could not be proved against them.
In June 2009, the police had filed the chargesheet in the case stating that Ghosh’s post-mortem report had revealed that she was killed by smothering. The trial in the case began in April 2010.
The three were also facing trial for the murder of TV journalist Soumya Viswanathan, killed a year before Ghosh.