HC commutes death sentence of rape and murder convict to life sentence

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Srinagar: A division bench of the J&K and Ladakh High Court today commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment for a Ladakhi man convicted of the rape and murder of a woman in 2002.

Judges Ali Mohammad Magray and Mohammad Akram Chowdhary upheld the convict’s appeal and rejected the trial court’s request for confirmation of the death sentence. The court commuted the prisoner’s death sentence to life imprisonment.

Sonam Dorjay alias Jamwang Tashi had been found guilty of committing offenses punishable under Articles 302 (murder) and 376 (rape) PRC and sentenced to death by the Chief Judge of Leh District and Sessions.

In 2012, the trial court found Dorjay guilty of raping a Mst Tsomo and then strangled her to death on the night of August 27-28, 2002.

The culprits preferred not to appeal the judgment. However, with the intervention of J&K Legal Services Authority, an appeal was filed on its behalf in 2017 against the contested judgment.

She attacked the judgment on the ground that the appellant was convicted on the basis of weak evidence of a circumstantial nature. He said there were no eyewitnesses to the crime, there was no attribution of a direct motive behind the crime and the recovery as a result of the alleged confession statement was not related to the commission of the offence.

She argued that in the absence of a complete chain of unexplained circumstances, the appellant-accused was unquestionably entitled to the benefit of the doubt. He also said the medical evidence did not suggest any inference as to the appellant’s guilt as the culprits’ semen and blood samples were not shown in the trial court.

The High Court valued J&K Legal Services Authority panel lawyer Masooda Jan, who represented the convict. The judges said “she rendered valuable and satisfactory assistance to the court in disposing of the appeal”.

It submits “at this stage that the appellant-convicted, who has already served the sentence of more than 20 years, be ordered to be released in view of the remission policy”.

TM Shamsi, the Deputy Solicitor General of India representing UT of Ladakh argued that since the appellant had accepted his conviction for the commission of offenses and the prosecution had succeeded in proving that the accused had strangled the deceased to death after having sexually assaulted her, the convict does not deserve any misplaced sympathy.

He maintained that the victim was an elderly widow. “The appellant’s commission of offenses against her may be called diabolical and cruel, as recorded by the trial court to attract capital punishment and prayed that the sentence passed by the trial court against appellant-accused be upheld and affirmed,” he said. .

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