MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court today commuted the death sentence awarded by a lower court to a 23-year-old man from Sangli district in Maharashtra for raping and killing his four-year-old niece in 2012 and awarded him "double life" sentence of 28 years.
Vitthal Tukaram Atugade was awarded double life sentence on the counts of rape and murder each, by a bench headed by Justice Vijaya Tahilramani which described the act as a "gory crime". On the day of the crime in 2012, Vitthal, who was cousin brother of the victim's mother, took the girl along with him on the pretext of going to a salon and headed towards a secluded place in Sangli where he raped her.
The convict, who was 20 years old at the time of the incident, left the girl to die, but on finding her alive, he then dragged the victim to a nearby area where he strangulated her to death and then buried the body in a secluded place. The girl's mother lodged a missing complaint with police and said she suspected Vitthal, as the victim was seen in his company before she disappeared.
Police arrested Vitthal and during interrogation he confessed to the crime. Vitthal was tried by Islampur Sessions Court which awarded death penalty to him in 2014 on the dual counts of rape (of minor) and murder.
Thereafter, the matter came for confirmation of death penalty to the high court which commuted his sentence to double life imprisonment of 14 years each. Both the sentences would run consecutively (one after the other).
In the high court, the prosecution, led by Geeta Mulekar, argued that the convict should be severely punished as he had committed a serious crime against a minor.