The content of this case summary is written by Subhankar Prabhakar. He is a content writing intern at Legal Thirst.
- On October 29, 2010, Mohanakrishnan, along with Manoharan (Appellant) , kidnapped two children, a girl aged 10 years old and her brother aged 7 years old from outside a Hindu Temple, at Coimbatore, on their way to school, and took them to a remote area called Gopalasamy temple hills.
- The girl was brutally raped by both men.
- The children were then fed milk mixed with a poisonous substance and when they didn’t die they were then tied up and thrown into the Parambikulam-Azhiyar(Aliyar) Project (PAP) canal.
- Mohanakrishnan was arrested on the same night and on 31.10.2010, two days after the incident, the present Appellant was arrested. Later, Mohanakrishnan was shot dead by the police on 9.11.2010 in an encounter. That left only the Appellant to be tried as an accused.
TRIAL COURT JUDGMENT
- The trial court in a detailed judgment ultimately held the Appellant guilty under Section 120-B, Section 364-A, Section 376, Section 302, Section 302 read with Section 34 and Section 201 of the Indian Penal Code.
- Under Section 376 IPC, the Appellant was awarded a life sentence, and for the offence under Section 302 IPC, he was given the death sentence.
THE HIGH COURT OF MADRAS JUDGMENT
- The High Court of Madras, in the impugned judgment dated 24.3.2014, set aside the Appellant’s conviction under Section 120-B and 364-A of the Penal Code, but confirmed the sentences under Sections 376, 302, Section 302 read with Section 34, and Section 201.
- After considering aggravating and mitigating circumstances, ultimately the death sentence imposed by the trial court was confirmed by the High Court.
- Aggravating & Mitigating circumstances considered by the High Court:-
In this case, the aggravating circumstances are:
(i) The offence is one of rape of a minor and murder of two children;
(ii) The hands of the girl were tied behind and one after the other they have raped her;
(iii) After committing rape, they were poisoned and when they didn’t die, the two accused pushed them to PAP Canal.
QUESTIONS BEFORE SUPREME COURT
- Whether the death sentence should be confirmed by this Court?
- Whether the mitigating circumstances in the present case that the accused belongs to a rural area and he is only 23 years old and has no other previous conviction outweigh the aggravating circumstances made out by the High Court?
SUPREME COURT JUDGMENT
- The Supreme Court, in a majority judgment of 2:1, confirmed the death sentence of the Appellant for the gruesome rape of a 10-year-old child and the double murder of her and her seven-year-old brother in Coimbatore.
- The majority decision of Justices Rohinton Nariman and Surya Kant concluded that the convict, Manoharan, showed no remorse for the heinous crime and found it a case of the “rarest of rare category” deserving the death penalty.
- Justice Nariman, writing for the majority, said the trial court and, subsequently, the Madras High Court correctly balanced the aggravating and mitigating factors for and against Manoharan to find that the “crime committed was cold-blooded and involves the rape of a minor girl and murder of two children in the most heinous fashion possible”.
- The majority judgment said Manoharan falsely retracted only those parts of his earlier confessional statement which implicated him in the rape of the young girl and the murder of both her and her little brother.
- Therefore, striking a balance between the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the majority decisions of the Supreme Court are of the opinion that the aggravating circumstance would tilt the balance in favor of capital punishment.
- In the facts and circumstances of the case, the majority decisions of the Supreme Court are of the opinion that there is no alternative punishment suitable, except the death sentence.
- The crime is committed with extremist brutality and the collective conscience of the society would be shocked.
- Therefore, majority decisions of the Supreme Court are of the opinion that the capital punishment/death sentence imposed by the learned Sessions Court and confirmed by the High Court does not warrant any interference by this Court. Consequently, the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence and dismissed the appeals.
- However, Justice Sanjeev Khanna, while confirming the guilt of Manoharan, dissented with the majority decision and awarded him a life sentence without remission/commutation till his natural death.
- Justice Khanna, in his dissenting judgment, held the retraction of the confession should not be treated as an absence of remorse or repentance but as “an afterthought or on advice propelled by fear that the appellant (Manoharan) in view of his admission may face the gallows, and that the earlier confession made seeking forgiveness would be the cause of his death”.
- This “thought of doubt and attempt to retract had surfaced on account of the belief that the sense of remorse, repentance and forgiveness would not be appreciated and given due regard, cannot be ruled out”. Justice Khanna said the retraction should not be held against Manoharan.
- Justice Khanna also considered the mitigating factors in favor of Manoharan, saying he was a first-time offender. He was 23 years of age at the time of the crime. He hails from a poor family and has aged parents. The crime was masterminded by his friend, Mohanakrishnan, who was later killed in a police encounter.
- “Mohanakrishnan had thought, conceived, and had single-handedly executed the plan to abduct the children. Appellant did join him thereafter and was with Mohanakrishnan. Subsequently, the devil in Mohanakrishnan took over and he sexually assaulted and raped the small girl, while the appellant kept quiet. Later the appellant too sexually assaulted and committed rape. Thereupon, poison was administered to the children before throwing them into the canal.”
- The judge said the offence committed was “heinous and deplorable” but did not call for the gallows.
SUPREME COURT JUDGMENT ON REVIEW PETITION
- The Court finds that there exist no grounds to review its judgment upholding the conviction and the death penalty. The review petitions are accordingly dismissed.
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