SC delay spares killer noose
(Times of India, Mumbai Edition of 8th September, 2010, Page no. 14)
Jailed Man Who Burnt Lover’s Kids Freed As SC Sits On Plea For 8 Yrs
New Delhi: A murder convict, who charred two kids to stop them from informing their father about his illicit relationship with their mother, escaped death as the Supreme Court took eight years to decide the case.
A trial court in Delhi had sentenced Ajit Seth to death terming the murder of Sunny Arora (7) and Shikha Arora (3) “brutal, diabolical and shocking to the judicial conscience”. But, it had acquitted the mother, who was termed a partner in crime by the police.
The Delhi high court, too, termed the offence as barbaric and heinous, but said it did not fall in the rarest of rare category to warrant death. It commuted his punishment to a 20-year life term. The Delhi government moved the Supreme Court in 2002 seeking death for Seth.
The apex court admitted the appeal in 2004, but finally heard it after this April, when Seth was released after spending 20 years behind bars. The apex court refused to allow the appeal and award capital sentence and said: “In the light of the fact that the respondent has already completed his sentence of 20 years and has been released, it would be a complete traversity of justice to allow this appeal and to award capital sentence at this stage.”
But it’s evident that had the appeal been heard before April, Seth would have certainly been sent to the gallows for his crime. The SC bench of Justices Harjit Singh Bedi and Chandramauli Kumar Prasad hearing the case hinted as much when it said: “We endorse the finding of the trial court that the crime committed by the respondent was indeed barbaric and called for no mercy.” It added: “This is indeed a sorry case and indicates the hardship and inequity that can ensue to an accused, the prosecution and the victims in the case of a delayed trial or delay in disposal of an appeal.”