The Delhi High Court has commuted to life term the death sentence awarded to five members of a girl's family for shooting to death her husband's brother in 2008.
A bench of justices S Muralidhar and Mukta Gupta upheld their conviction for the offence of murder, but reduced the punishment of Mohammed Saleem, Shaheen Zargam Ali, Sajid Wasim, Shabbir Kasim and Shaheen Abbas saying the case did not fall in the "rarest of rare category".
The high court also said that the incident was not one of honour killing as held by the trial court. The bench upheld their conviction and 10-year jail term awarded by the trial court for the attempted murder of the deceased's brother.
"In the facts and circumstances, the present case cannot possibly be termed as involving the crime of honour killing.
The incident took place more than one and a half years after the marriage of prosecution witness-3 (girl) with prosecution witness-10 (girl's husband). Both families were staying in the same area. Yet there is no evidence to show that there was any incident of a quarrel between them prior to July 7, 2008," the bench said.
"In the considered view of the court, the present case is not one which can be termed as a rarest of rare case deserving the award of death penalty to any of the accused. For the aforementioned reasons, the court declines to confirm death sentence awarded to each of the accused. The impugned order on sentence is modified by sentencing each of the accused to life imprisonment...," it said.
The high court passed the judgement while disposing of the death reference and appeals of the five convicts.
According to the prosecution, Saleem and Zargam Ali are uncles of the girl, while Sajid and Shabbir are her brothers and Abbas, a cousin. They all belonged to the Sunni community.
The girl's husband, Sadiq, is from the Shia community.
The convicts came to know the couple had come to live at Sadiq's parental home and had forcibly taken him on July 7, 2008, to a mosque in the locality where the other accused were waiting for them, it said.
Sadiq's brothers, Tariq and Tayyab, had followed them to the mosque where an argument ensued, after which the five convicts attacked Tariq and his brother Tayyab and shot them with a country-made pistol, the prosecution had said.
While Tayyab was severely injured, Tariq succumbed to his injuries, it had said.
Agreeing with the prosecution's version, the trial court had held that the case was one of honour killing and thus fell in the rarest of rare category, warranting death penalty.