The Madras High Court refused to confirm the death sentence imposed by the Trial Court on a man convicted for repeatedly raping his minor daughter.

The court said that, though the act committed was 'gruesome', this case does not fall within the category of 'rarest of rare cases' to impose death penalty.

The Bench of Justice SS Sundar and Justice Sundar Mohan observed thus: "We are convinced that this case does not fall within the category of 'rarest of rare cases'. The trial Court however was carried away by the act of the father who had committed grave sexual offences against his daughter. There is no doubt that the act committed by A2 is gruesome. However, it would not fall within any of the parameters laid down by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Bachan Singh's case and Machhi Singh's case [cited supra], which had been reiterated by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in other cases."

State Public Prosecutor Hasan Mohammed Jinnah appeared for the State, while Senior Counsel R Rajarathinam and Senior Counsel Abudukumar Rajarathinam appeared for the accused side.

In this case, the prosecution asserted that the accused, parents of the victim, sexually assaulted her from age 7. Allegedly, the father committed penetrative sexual assault, causing the victim's pregnancy. Despite the victim's complaints to her mother, no action was taken. The victim eventually confided in her teacher, leading to a complaint, FIR registration, and arrests. The accused faced charges under IPC and POCSO Act. The trial court framed charges, and the accused pleaded not guilty. The case progressed with investigations, medical examinations, and the victim's statement under Section 164 Cr.P.C.

The Trial Court sentenced the accused-father to death, and the accused-mother to life imprisonment without remission/commutation.

The High Court held that it was convinced that the accused-father had committed the offence of aggravated penetrative sexual assault. To that end, the Court further observed that, "having regard to the fact that the victim was a minor child and had suffered offences under the POCSO Act, and bearing in mind the provisions of Section 33 (5) of the POCSO Act, which provides that the victim shall not be called to the Court repeatedly, we refrain ourselves from conducting further enquiry or taking additional evidence though there are certain minor contradictions between the statement of victim under Section 164 Cr.P.C., and her deposition before the trial Court, which have not been brought out during cross-examination. We are convinced that the victim/PW2 has spoken the truth and there is no reason to disbelieve her."

The High Court also observed that the accused-mother did not intend to aid the accused-father in committing the offences, and that the prosecution evidence disclosed that she had protested but the accused-father had abused and beat her, besides intimidating her of dire consequences. To that end, it was held that, "A2's knowledge of the illegal acts and her omission to prevent it or complain about it would not amount to “intentional aiding”." It was held that although the accused-mother could not be charged for abutment, she was guilty of not reporting the offence.

However, the Court reduced the sentence of death imposed on the accused-father to one of life imprisonment, by observing that, "The sentence of death can be imposed only in the rarest of rare cases. In other words, it can be imposed only in exceptional cases. Therefore, the imposition of the sentence of life imprisonment is the rule. Considering the nature of evidence let in by the prosecution and the conduct of A1 after the occurrence, we are of the view that it is not a case which would fall under, the 'rarest of rare' category. There is nothing on record to show that A1 is a menace to society and there is no possibility of reformation at all. We find from the evidence of PW2 herself that A1 had sought pardon and had behaved properly after the complaint was lodged and when she lived in the parent's house for a short while."

The accused-mother was sentenced to the period of sentence already undergone, as she was living in a helpless situation.

Cause Title: State vs xxx Father of the victim child & Anr.

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