Breather for killers of kidnapped Punjab teen
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Hours before they were set to be hanged, the Supreme Court on Friday stayed the hanging of Vikram Singh Walia and Jasbir Singh, guilty of murdering 16-year-old Abhi Verma for ransom.
A division bench of the apex court stayed the "execution of death warrants" on a special leave petition (SLP) filed by Vikram and Jagbir. The duo have also challenged death as a sentence in cases of kidnapping for ransom. The killers have raised an argument that death cannot be awarded to individuals under Section 364-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The same challenge was raised before the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The petitioners had contended that death can be awarded only to those who are involved in international terrorism and not to "private individuals". Holding their challenge as "ill founded, deceptive and misleading", a division bench headed by Justice Surya Kant, on October 4, had dismissed the petition for "beating around the bush".
Making it clear that death sentence cannot be abolished from Section 364-A of IPC, the high court had ruled that "death was one of the sentences prescribed for the offence of a private individual's kidnapping for ransom from the very inception of Section 364-A IPC in the year 1993."
"It has neither been omitted nor diluted by the subsequent amendment. The challenge to the 'retrospectivity' of the provision is totally deceptive and misleading".
This judgment has now been challenged by the duo. The apex court, meanwhile, has issued notices to the central government to assist the court in deciding the validity of death sentence under Section 364-A of the IPC.
The division bench of justices Swatanter Kumar and Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya also directed Patiala Jail Superintendent not to execute death warrants of Vikram and Jagbir. On Thursday, the High Court had directed the Jail Superintendent to forward the mercy petition, prepared by the two, to the President of India.
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