By IANS, [RxPG] New Delhi, Aug 12 - In what has alarmed friends of slain Delhi University law student Priyadarshini Mattoo, the Supreme Court has held that even a double murder committed 'in a fit of passion' after an abortive rape bid does not deserve death penalty.
A bench of Justice S.B. Sinha and Justice Markandey Katju earlier this week upheld a Punjab and Haryana High Court ruling, which commuted a death sentence imposed on a double murder convict by a lower court to life term.
Kulvinder Singh had in August 2002 hacked Hardeep Kaur to death in a Punjab village after she resisted his bid to rape her. He also killed the girl's grandmother who tried to save her.
'While upholding the conviction of the accused for murder, we reduce the sentence to life imprisonment since it appears that the crime was committed in a fit of passion and does not come within the category of the 'rarest of rare' to deserve death penalty,' the apex court bench ruled.
The sessions court had sentenced Kulvinder Singh to death saying: 'The conduct of the accused depicted him as a person who constituted a threat to the society. He has forfeited his right to life by his barbarity.'
The Supreme Court ruling has alarmed Priyadarshini Matoo's friends and relatives. The 23-year-old was raped and murdered in January 1996 by Santosh Singh.
Santosh, son of senior police officer J.P. Singh, had been allegedly stalking the girl for over a year.
Aditya Raj Kaul, who spearheaded the campaign 'Justice to Priyadarshini Mattoo' after a Delhi court acquitted Santosh, said: 'It's a shocking ruling from the highest court of the country.'
'At this rate, Santosh Singh's lawyer may also argue before the apex court that he committed the crime in a fit of passion after he failed to rape her and may escape the gallows.
'After all Santosh Singh and his lawyers can conveniently cite his past conduct of consistently stalking her and convince the court that he had a passion aflame for Mattoo,' he added.
'This judgment has alarmed us. I will soon discuss it with our friends about what we should do in such a situation,' Kaul said.
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