Capital punishment commuted to life imprisonment by SC

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New Delhi, Dec 17 (UNI) The Supreme Court has commuted death sentence to life imprisonment of a person who was awarded capital punishment for rape and murder of his niece.

A bench comprising Justices S B Sinha and Harjit Singh Bedi acquitted appellant Ujjagar Singh of the charge of raping his niece Mukhtiar Kaur, but upheld his conviction of her murder on November 10, 2002.

Mukhtiar was shot dead by Ujjagar as she was forcing him to return 30-35 bhighas of agricultural land that fell in the share of her father Puran Singh, Ujjagar's brother.

Puran Singh, who had two brothers Ujjagar and Ajmer Singh, died 20 years back leaving behind his wife, two sons and a daughter, now deceased. His wife and sons had also died long before the incident. Mukhtiar returned back to her home town in district Sangrur after her relations with her husband Balvinder Singh became strained.

Punjab and Haryana High Court confirmed the death sentence awarded to the appellant.

The apex court, in its judgement dated December 18 noted, ''The question that arises is of the sentence that should be imposed on the appellant. It would be seen that both the Sessions court and the high court were appalled by the allegations and findings of incestuous rape and murder. We are, however, of the opinion that a case of rape has not been made out. In this background, the death sentence is not called for.

We accordingly acquit the appellant of the charge under Section 376 of the IPC but maintain his conviction for the other offences, commuting his death sentence to life. With this modification, the appeal is dismissed.'' The apex court refused to believe the contention of the appellant that some unknown people shot dead Mukhtiar Kaur, attacking her later, adding that the case was entirely based on circumstancial evidence and hence, courts have to be extracautious in examining the same.

The court added, ''Even if it is accepted that the victim was raped before her murder, the sexual intercourse was with her consent.'' UNI

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