The Supreme Court has said that retrospective effect to a law cannot be granted, and refused to award death penalty to a convict who committed rape and murder of a nine-year-old child last year in Telangana, nearly two months prior to the amendment of POCSO Act by Parliament prescribing extreme sentence for the heinous crime.
The Telangana government had moved the top court against the Hyderabad High Court order of November 12, last year by which it had commuted the death sentence of the 25-year-old man, who committed the grave crime and awarded him life sentence till last breath.
The man, Polepaka Praveen alias Pawan, was awarded death penalty in a trial completed in record time of 48 days by the lower court after the commission of crime in June last year.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph said that it is unable to persuade itself with the argument of the state government on the aspect of retrospective punishment of extreme sentence on the ground that a signal goes to the society by imposition of the death sentence.
"Firstly, we fail to see how retrospective effect can be granted when the punishment is to operate prospectively and logically so. Even otherwise, the punishment of not being released till his last breath is punitive enough to send a signal to the society and it cannot be that only the death sentence can send a right signal," the bench said.
The bench said, "We are of the view that the High Court has deemed it appropriate to impose the life sentence till the last breath, this Court under Article 136 of the Constitution of India should not interfere only for conversion of the same into again a death sentence was imposed by the trial court."
During the hearing, counsel appearing for the state submitted that the imposition of death sentence was included in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 with effect from August 6, 2019 and the offence was committed on June 18-19, 2019.
The counsel submitted that keeping in mind the intent of the Parliament; it should be given retrospective effect even though the provision is prospective in nature.
The bench refused to agree with contention of the state government and dismissed the appeal against the High Court order.
On August 8, last year, the trial court, in its verdict delivered within 48 days of the incident, had imposed death sentence to Praveen, who on June 18 kidnapped the infant, raped and murdered after lifting the baby from their house in Kumarpally in Hanamkonda.
He was caught by the girl's family within hours, but by then the child was murdered.