Nine months after the Madras High Court upheld the death sentence awarded to S Dhasvanth, who sexually assaulted and murdered a seven-year-old girl in Chennai, the Supreme Court has ordered an interim stay on the execution of the punishment. This, after the accused approached the Supreme Court against the conviction and death sentence.
The petition was heard on April 8 by a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjiv Khanna. After considering the matter, the bench said they were of the view that no fault can be found with the conviction of the accused petitioner under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (Murder) and provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual offence Act, 2012 (POCSO). And while rejecting a plea challenging his conviction, the apex court has observed they will look into the quantum of punishment.
"Issue notice confined to the question of sentence. In the meantime, the sentence of death penalty awarded shall not be executed," reads the SC's order copy.
The Supreme Court's decision comes after the Madras High Court upheld the trial court's decision to sentence him to death. In the High Court, Dhasvanth alleged that the investigation in the case was not satisfactory. He claimed that the dates mentioned by various witnesses did not corroborate and that the investigation was done with the sole intention to convict him.
The Chengalpet court which first held trial in the matter, examined 30 witnesses, 45 documents and 19 pieces of evidence. In all, he has been awarded 46 years of rigorous imprisonment.
Responding to the latest developments in the case, Sherin Bosko, the founder of Nakshatra, an organisation that works to support families of sexually abused children in court, says, "There is already a high rise is crime against women and children across the country. The Supreme Court's judgement in this case will prove to be a precedent for all other such brutal cases and perpetrators across the country will be emboldened. Even recently in Mumbai, a child rapist was released early and he just ended up raping and murdering another child. We cannot have this happen again."
The seven-year-old victim went missing from the apartment complex she stayed in with her family in Chennai’s Mugalivakkam on February 6, 2017. The Chennai police arrested Dhasvanth, who also lived in the same building. He had lured her away with a dog, and then sexually assaulted and killed her.
In December 2017, on the very first day of the trial, Dhasvanth was reprimanded by the court for ‘confessing’ to the crime so that the trial could be done away with. He wrote a six-page letter to the court, which was rejected by judge P Velmurugan, who also said that the accused “could not play with the courts.”
Meanwhile, the techie seemed to show little remorse for his actions as the victim's father had earlier told TNM that he had been repeatedly threatened by Dhasvanth in the court premises. He said that Dhasvanth had threatened to murder his son as well.
The most significant turning point in the case came on December 2, 2017, when Dhasvanth ’s mother was found bludgeoned to death while he was out on bail. Dhasvanth, who was out on bail, had allegedly killed her and escaped with her jewelry, which he split with David and James, two jail mates from Puzhal Central Prison whom he had befriended.
He was caught by the police on December 6 in Mumbai, only to escape a day later. He was re-arrested the very next day, when he was found a few kilometres away from the Vile Parle area from where he had escaped.
Dhasvanth also reportedly confessed to killing his mother and said that he would have killed his father Sekhar as well had he not been late in returning from work that day.
Things changed for him after his mother’s death. His father withdrew the legal support he was providing for Dhasvanth. The state has been providing him legal aid since then.