Orissa HC commutes death sentence to life imprisonment to rape-murder convict

Sk Asif Ali (37) along with Sk Akil Ali (38) was convicted by the Pocso Court in Jagatsinghpur for the rape and murder of a six-year-old girl on November 21, 2022.
Representative image
Representative image

CUTTACK: The death sentence awarded to Sk Asif Ali, a rape and murder convict, by a Special Pocso court was commuted to imprisonment for life by the Orissa High Court on Thursday.

Sk Asif Ali (37) along with Sk Akil Ali (38) was convicted by the Pocso Court in Jagatsinghpur for the rape and murder of a six-year-old girl on November 21, 2022. They were sentenced to life imprisonment for rape and death sentence for murder on the same day.

The incident occurred at a village under Tirtol police station in Jagatsinghpur district on August 21, 2014. The girl was kidnapped while she was on her way back home after buying chocolates from a shop. She was gagged and raped in an abandoned house near the village and killed to destroy evidence.

Considering the state governments plea for confirmation of the trial court’s death sentence and the criminal appeals filed by the two convicts, the high court set aside the conviction of Sk Akil Ali and acquitted him of the charges of rape and murder. The high court held that the circumstantial evidence against him was difficult to sustain his conviction.

In the case of Sk Asif Ali, the high court upheld his conviction and confirmed the sentence of life imprisonment awarded to him for rape, but commuted death sentence to imprisonment for life for murder.

While categorising the case as rarest of rare cases, the trial court said it warranted capital punishment to meet the ends of justice as the victim was a six-year-old girl.

However, the division bench of Justice SK Sahoo and Justice RK Patnaik said that there is no cogent evidence that the Sk Asif Ali is beyond reform and rehabilitation. Considering the entire facts and circumstances, the aggravating circumstances, and mitigating circumstances, it cannot be said that capital punishment is the only option for the appellant and that the option of imprisonment for life will not suffice and is wholly disproportionate.

In the 106-page long judgment the high court awarded Rs 10 lakh compensation as provided under Schedule-II of Odisha Victim Compensation Scheme, 2017 considering the factual scenario and the age of the deceased victim.

The trial court had awarded compensation of Rs 1.5 lakh to be paid to the parents of the deceased victim.

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