MADURAI: Seven years after a man was convicted by a magisterial court in Virudhunagar to serve a 10-year jail term for raping a minor girl, the Madras High Court bench here has ordered fresh trial in the case on the grounds that magistrates cannot impose jail sentences beyond seven years.
The High Court’s direction came on an appeal from the convict, whose sentence was incidentally upheld by a Sessions Court earlier. The convict, Arjunan of Virudhunagar, was accused of raping an 11-year-old girl.
In January 2007, the Virudhunagar Chief Judicial Magistrate had held him guilty of the crime and awarded him a 10-year prison term. The same was upheld by a Sessions Court.
However, Arjunan assailed his conviction and filed an appeal in the High Court. Passing orders, Justice R Mala said as per Section 29(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) said the trial by the Chief Judicial Magistrate is illegal and irregular and it cannot be rectified under Section 461 Cr.P.C. The judge said the magistrate had powers only to impose seven years sentence.
Under Section 376 (2) (f) IPC, whoever commits rape on a woman when she is under 12 years of age shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 10 years but which may be for life and shall also be liable to fine.
“Therefore, it is a fit case for ordering de novo trial (new trial or a criminal retrial in which the entire case is presented as if there had been no previous trial) before an Assistant Sessions Judge.”
Hence setting aside the conviction and sentence imposed by the trial court, Justice R Mala remitted the case to the District and Sessions Judge, Virudhunagar District to place the case for trail before a court, which is having the jurisdiction to try the case and to dispose of the same within a short span of time.