In a majority judgment of 2:1, three-judge Bench said there are no grounds to review their verdict upholding the death penalty of convict Manoharan
The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a plea to review the death penalty awarded to a man convicted for the brutal rape and murder of a 10-year-old girl and her younger brother in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu.
A majority judgment by Justices Rohinton F. Nariman and Surya Kant confirmed that the convict, Manoharan, deserved the death penalty as the crime committed was “craftily planned and meticulously executed”, with “multiple opportunities to cease and desist”.
The third judge on the review bench, Justice Sanjeev Khanna, upheld the conviction of Manoharan but stuck to his original opinion that he did not deserve the death penalty and his sentence should be commuted to life imprisonment.
In the original judgment on Manoharan’s appeal in August, a majority judgment by Justices Nariman and Hemant Gupta had confirmed the death sentence for Manoharan. Justice Khanna had, however, dissented, taking into consideration several mitigating factors in favour of Manoharan, including that he was 23 years of age at the time of the crime and a first-time offender.
The crime was committed on October 29, 2010 by Manoharan and Mohanakrishnan. The latter was killed in a police encounter. Together, they had kidnapped the children, who were on their way to school, and taken them to a remote area called Gopalasamy Temple Hills. The girl was sexually assaulted by both men. The children were then fed milk with a poisonous substance added to it. They were tied up and thrown into the swirling waters of the Parambikulam-Aliyar Project canal.
Dismissing Manoharan’s plea for review and commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment, Justice Kant observed that “the present case is essentially one where two accused misused societal trust to hold as captive two innocent school-going children, one of whom was brutally raped and sodomised, and thereupon administered poison and, finally, drowned by throwing them into a canal”.
“It was not in the spur of the moment or a crime of passion,” Justice Kant wrote for himself and Justice Nariman. Justice Khanna, who had written a minority judgment in August sparing Manoharan from the gallows, fully concurred with Justice Kant this time around.
Justice Kant wrote that the offence was so grave that it shocked the court and society. The judgment said it would “without doubt amount to rarest of the rare” and was “no ground to review our judgment upholding conviction and death penalty”.
The court rejected the contention of Manoharan’s lawyer and senior advocate Siddharth Luthra that he had retracted his confession. The judgment said there was enough evidence to convict him, independent of the confession. The court also refused to accept Manoharan’s contention that he did not get proper legal assistance. Justice Kant said no prejudice was caused to Manoharan at any stage of the trial and subsequent appeals right up to the Supreme Court.