The Bombay High Court on Monday confirmed the death penalty for five upper caste men convicted of the murder of three Dalit men in Sonai village, Ahmednagar, in 2013 because one of them fell in love with a girl from the upper caste family.
A Division Bench of Justices B.P. Dharmadhikari and Sandeep Shinde was hearing criminal appeals filed by Ramesh, Prakash, Ganesh and Popat Darandale, Sandip Kurhe and Ashok Navgire, who were all convicted for murdering three men by the sessions court. However, the HC set aside Mr. Navgire’s conviction and set him free.
Sandeep Thanwar, Rahul Kandare, Sachin Gharu worked as sweepers at Trimurti Prathisthan College. As per the prosecution, Gharu, who belonged to a scheduled caste, fell in love with Seema Darandale, who is from the Maratha caste. She is Popat’s daughter and was doing B.Ed at the college.
On January 1, 2013, all the deceased reached to clean septic tanks at Darandale Vasti at the farmhouse where the Darandales lived. Soon thereafter, Thanwar’s body was found in the septic tank and Gharu and Kandare were found in a well. Gharu had been beheaded and his limbs were found.
In the 133-page judgment, the Bench noted, “All the victims were defenceless and the crime was unprovoked. It is established, the crime was perfectly premeditated and it was committed with brazenness and coldness. The [accused’s] vengeance caused the loss of three precious lives … The evidence shows that the accused committed the crime in the most gruesome manner. They intended to hint at [a particular] section of society and set [an] example as to what happens if one belonging to the lower caste ventures to [have] relations with a girl from upper class of society. Thus, the totality of the facts and circumstances clearly reflects that there is no scope for reform of the accused. The manner in which the victims are eliminated and killed has shocked the conscience of society.”
The court said that justice demanded that it should impose a punishment befitting the crime.
“In our considered view, looking at the factors like young age of the accused, absence of criminal antecedents and likelihood of reforms cannot be said to be mitigating circumstances. Likewise, post crime, conduct of the accused clearly indicates there was no remorse felt by them for the acts committed. We are therefore of the view that family background, absence of criminal antecedents, likelihood of reform of the accused cannot be taken as mitigating circumstances to take the case out of the category of rarest and rare cases,” the court said.
It said the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances and it did not find any justification to convert the death sentence imposed by the lower court to life imprisonment. “The present case clearly comes within the category of ‘rarest and rare case’ and therefore we hold, the question of any other punishment is unquestionably foreclosed. On this reasoning recorded by us, we affirm the death sentence awarded to them,” the court declared.