“Young boy of 25 years”: Supreme Court commutes death sentence of man who killed sister and her lover

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While commuting the death sentence of Digambar, the court also took note of official reports which showed that Digambar had been found to be well-behaved, helping, and a person with leadership qualities

The Supreme Court on Friday commuted the death sentence of a man to life sentence, namely Digambar who murdered his sister along with her lover. The court said that as the act of the accused did not fall under the rarest of the rare case, death sentence would be eligible for commutation.

Observing that Digambar did not have any criminal antecedents, a three-judge Bench of Justice B.R Gavai, Justice Vikram Nath, and Justice Sanjay Karol held, “...Digambar, who has been sentenced to capital punishment, was a young boy of about 25 years at the time of the incident. The medical evidence would further reveal that the appellants have not acted in a brutal manner, inasmuch as there is only a single injury inflicted on both the deceased. As such, we find that the present case cannot be considered to be the ‘rarest of rare’ case”.

The appellant, Digambar was awarded the death sentence while his co-appellant, Mohan, was punished with life imprisonment by a Sessions Court in 2019, which was confirmed by the Bombay High Court in 2021.

While commuting the death sentence of Digambar, the court also took note of a report of the Probation Officer, Nanded as well as the Superintendent, of Nashik Road Central Prison which showed that Digambar had been found to be well-behaved, helping, and a person with leadership qualities. “He is not a person with the criminal mindset and criminal records”, the bench said.

However, the bench upheld Digambar and Mohan's convictions under Sections 201 (punishment for causing the disappearance of evidence of an offence), Section 302 (punishment for murder), and Section 120B (punishment for criminal conspiracy) of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

In 2017, Digambar used a sickle to murder his sister and her lover with the help of Mohan. He then hurried to the Bhokar Police Station and filed a first information report detailing his involvement in the crime.

Digambar and Mohan appealed their convictions to the Supreme Court, primarily on the grounds that Digambar's extrajudicial confession was the only evidence used to support them.

While refusing to overturn the Bombay High Court’s decision, the bench opined, “Though the extra-judicial confession of the accused- Digambar cannot be taken into consideration, however, his conduct of going to the Police Station and surrendering before the Police can certainly be taken into consideration in view of Section 8 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872”.

The bench further stated that the prosecution had proven that the deceased and the accused left the home of the public witness together shortly before the deceased people passed away and held “As such, the burden to show as to what happened after leaving the house would shift on the accused in view of Section 106 [(burden of proving fact, especially within knowledge)] of the Indian Evidence Act. It is to be noted that what transpired after the accused left along with the deceased, is only within the knowledge of the accused. However, the accused persons have utterly failed to discharge the said burden”. 

Conclusively, the court dismissed the appeal filed by co-appellant, Mohan and partly allowed the appeal filed by Digambar. “Though the conviction of the appellant-Digambar under Section 302 IPC is maintained, the sentence of capital punishment is commuted to life imprisonment”, it held.

Case Title: Digambar v. The State of Maharashtra

Statue: The Indian Penal Code; The Indian Evidence Act