The Delhi high court on Monday awarded the death sentence to advocate Santosh Kumar Singh, convicted for commiting the rape and murder of Priyadarshini Mattoo, a Delhi University law student, eleven years ago.
Pronouncing the judgment in a jam-packed court room, Justices R S Sodhi and P K Bhasin ordered that "he (Singh) shall be hanged till death."
The court said he deserved nothing other than capital punishment.
Singh was arrested in 1996 and tried, but the trial court headed by G P Thareja gave him the benefit of doubt and acquitted him of the charges.
"He does not deserve to be pardoned. This is rarest of the rare cases," Justice R S Sodhi and Justice P K Bhasin said in their judgment.
The Delhi police had brought Singh to the court under heavy security and waited outside while the defence counsel and Central Bureau of Investigation advocates argued over the quantum of punishment.
Singh's face fell when he was told that the court had given him the death sentence. He is likely to challenge the judgment in the Supreme court.
Dressed in grey trousers and white shirt, Singh, a practising lawyer who is married and has a child, was crestfallen when the court handed down the verdict.
Singh became emotional when his father came out of the court room and met him.
"There is absolutely no doubt in our mind that what was required of Singh was exemplary behaviour being a son of police officer and a lawyer himself. Yet with a pre-meditated approach, he continued to harass the victim for two years," the Bench said.
"Inspite of repeated warnings by the police and his undertakings to them, he went about commiting the most ghastly act. The act itself sent ripples in society and showed how insecure a citizen can get against this kind of a person," the Bench remarked.
The entire proceedings were witnessed by some friends and family members of both the victim and the convict.
Justice Sodhi's wife and his daughter were also among those witnessing the proceedings.
Singh was acquitted by the Sessions Court in 1999, a judgment that was described as "perverse" by the high court.
The Sessions Judge G P Thareja had held that though he knew that Singh had committed the murder, he was acquitting him because of lack of evidence.
The order by the high court division bench on Monday came after three-hour long arguments by the defence and prosecution over the quantum of sentence.
"We are of the opinion that a case of this kind in which the crime is committed in a pre-meditated way and grotesque manner, the convict deserves nothing other than death penalty," the bench observed.
The Delhi high court had convicted him on October 17.
Singh had been stalking Priyadarshini Mattoo for nearly two years following which she had lodged a complaint at two different police stations.
The Bench, after hearing the arguments by the counsels of both the parties on the quantum of sentence, observed that evaluating the circumstances in favour and against the convict, 'the aggravating circumstances far outweigh the mitigating circumstances'.
Appearing for CBI, Additional Solicitor General Amrendra Sharan pressed for death sentence as the case falls under the category of 'rarest of rare cases' and said Singh raped and murdered a defenceless victim.
He pointed out that Singh had stalked the victim for two years making her and her family life miserable.
Sharan said the abhorrent mannner in which the murder was committed is the aggravating circumstance.
Singh deserved no clemency for he had committed a pre-meditated and cold-blooded murder evident from the fact that on the fateful day he had stalked the girl for the whole day and waited outside her house for the moment when she was alone to commit the offence.
Citing Apex Court Judgment in the Dhananjoy Chatterjee case, he argued the convict committed the diabolique, grotesque and gruesome offence to satisfy his brutal lust and he is a danger to the society.
He ruled out any possibility of his being reformed.
Sharan said the convict was a soldier of justice and greater responsibilty and respect for law of the land was expected of him.
He did not reform himself despite several opportunities and warnings given to him. He had not even kept the assurances given by him to the police that he would not repeat the mischievious acts, said Sharan.
B L Wali, advocate for Chaman Lal Mattoo, Priyadarshini's father, said that his client was more than happy with the death sentence.
"We had to slog hard for the case. When we entered the court room in the morning to argue for quantum of sentence, we were not sure what would impress the court. We are glad that the court gave him a death sentence," he said in a conversation with rediff.com on Monday evening.
Friend Aditya Raj Kaul, who started a petition on the internet to gather support for the case in March this year, was delighted at the judgement.
"It took ten years to get justice. It is thanks to the media that we were able to gather support and thousands of people wrote back and said that we should join a campaign. That is how the campaign, Justice for Priyadarshani, started on her birthday on June 23. The rest is history - a landmark judgement in 50 days," he said.
Chronology of Events:
January 23, 1996: Priyadarshini Mattoo raped and killed allegedly by Santosh Kumar Singh. Delhi police registers FIR.
January 25, 1996: Case handed over to the CBI. Agency registers case.
April 11, 1996: CBI files chargesheet in the case against Singh.
August 29, 1996: Charges framed.
August 11, 1997: Trial starts.
December 3, 1999: ASJ G P Thareja acquits Singh; lashes CBI for shoddy investigations.
February 29, 2000: CBI appeals in Delhi high court.
April 26, 2000: High court admits appeal.
October 17, 2000: High court issues bailable warrant against Singh.
July 22, 2006: CBI files application for early hearing.
August 31, 2006: High court orders daily hearings in the case.
Oct 17, 2006: High court convicts Santosh Singh for raping and killing Mattoo.
Oct 30, 2006: High court gives death sentence to Singh.
With PTI Inputs