A special court on Friday sentenced a man to death for the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Mumbai, within a year of him being released from jail after he was convicted for sexually assaulting another minor in 2013.
Special Judge H C Shende said the accused, Vadivel alias Gundappa Devendra, had already spent five years in jail for a similar offence and the repeat offence showed that his reformation is impossible. He was found guilty on charges, including murder and rape, under Indian Penal Code (IPC) and relevant sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
Considering the submissions made by Special Public Prosecutor Vaibhav Bagade, the court said that the manner in which the offence was committed was a mitigating circumstance to pronounce capital punishment for the accused.
The special judge had on Thursday given the death sentence to another accused booked for the rape and murder of a woman in Mumbai’s Saki Naka, last year.
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Devendra was convicted in 2013 for sexually assaulting a minor girl. He was sentenced then to seven years in jail and granted an early release on May 9, 2018, five years after his conviction.
Within 11 months, on April 4, 2019, an eight-year-old girl went dence located in the same area as Devendra’s previous victim. She had stepped out after school to buy tea, as her mother was unwell after undergoing a surgery. Her family began searching for her when she did not return and then approached the police.
The initial clues in the case came from a shopkeeper in the area, who had seen the girl with Devendra. Following this, the police interrogated Devendra after two days. He lead them to a septic tank in the area where he had dumped the body.
“The accused was convicted in an offence against a minor. After his release, he again committed an offence of the same kind against another minor. In this offence, he killed the victim so that she could not speak against him. Not only did he kill her, he disposed her body in such a manner that it would have probably never been found. If I hear mitigating circumstances like his age and show him leniency, what if he finds another prey,” the court asked. It added that to destroy evidence, the girl was killed in a “horrible” and “spine-chilling” manner.
“I think that if I give the accused a lesser sentence, he will again go to jail and again pretend to be good there, he will again get the rest of the sentence pardoned. This would again give him a chance to commit the same crime and ruin the life of another girl,” the judge said in her order.
She added that the POCSO Act’s objectives were to provide children a safe environment to grow up in and the accused, despite his previous punishment, had shown no regard for it.
The girl’s mother, who was present in court, said that her daughter was bright in studies and was aspiring to become a policewoman or a lawyer. “We made a lot of sacrifices and were making ends meet to raise my daughter and my son. The incident changed our lives forever. Her father has been so broken, he still does not speak to anyone or go anywhere. We wanted him to be given the death penalty.”
“On that day too, she had come back from an exam. I sent her to bring tea as I was unwell,” she added.
The court said that it needs to consider the plight of the parents, too, when deciding on punishment. “The accused is now remembering his aged mother but what about the mother of the victim? Because of her restricted movement after her operation, she asked the victim to buy tea from hotel by giving her Rs 10… and the innocent victim went all alone, not knowing that the accused is waiting for her and that she is going to her death,” it added.