Mon Oct 30, 2006
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The Delhi High Court on Monday sentenced the son of a former police officer to death for the 1996 rape and murder of a law student in a case that highlighted the delays and injustices of an overburdened justice system.
Santosh Kumar Singh, a lawyer, had been freed by a lower court in 1999 for the murder of Priyadarshini Mattoo due to a lack of evidence, until a public outcry forced a retrial which led to his conviction two weeks ago.
The Delhi High Court delivered the sentence on Monday.
"We are of the opinion that in a case of this kind in which a crime is committed in a pre-meditated approach and a grotesque manner, death is the only punishment," judges R.S. Sodhi and P.K. Bhasin said in their order.
"Let the accused be hanged till death."
Singh was being held by police outside the packed court room when the sentence was read. Under Indian law, the death penalty has to be confirmed by a higher court and the convict can appeal against it up to the Supreme Court.
They can then appeal to the president for mercy. Although several people have been sentenced to death over the years, few have been executed as they are waiting for their appeals to be heard or their mercy petitions to be disposed.
Singh and Mattoo, who was 22 when she was killed, had studied law together in Delhi. She was found strangled in her flat.
The Delhi High Court fast-tracked the case earlier this year — an appeal had been pending for six years — after it was highlighted by campaigners fighting against delays in India's criminal justice system.
Activists had held candle-light protests, street vigils and even petitioned the president.
"I pray that the soul of my daughter rests in peace," C.L. Mattoo, Priyadarshini's father, told reporters on hearing of the sentence. "It has been a period of anguish and pain, and now that period is over."