| Santosh: Reversal of fortune
New Delhi, Oct. 30: Seven years after his acquittal, Santosh Singh, convicted of raping and killing Priyadarshini Mattoo, was today sentenced by Delhi High Court to be “hanged by the neck until death.”
The dramatic reversal caps a crusade by Priyadarshini’s father, whose initial lonely battle was complemented by a groundswell of public support after the mass acquittals in the Jessica Lal murder case outraged the country.
The IPS officer’s son, who had walked out smiling from Tihar jail after his acquittal, broke down when the sentence was read out today. On October 17, the high court had convicted Santosh, a 35-year-old lawyer. Priyadarshini, his junior at law school, was 23 when she was killed.
“He does not deserve to live,” said the high court bench of Justices R.S. Sodhi and P.K. Bhasin, as Santosh’s father J.P. Singh consoled his sobbing son, who has a daughter aged two and a half years.
Santosh’s lawyers will move the Supreme Court seeking a reversal of the conviction.
For Chamanlal Mattoo, Priyadarshini’s father, justice has finally been done. “The brutal murderer of Priya has got what he deserved,” he said.
Mattoo said he felt for Santosh’s family as he knew the pain of losing a child. But that in no way changed the nature of the crime, he added.
“Perhaps, if the investigating agency — at the behest of the accused — had not tried to save him, I would have been less upset. After all that has happened, I believe he should be hanged.”
Earlier in the day, the court had reminded an eager prosecution: “The decision to sentence someone to death is not easy.” It took close to six hours of arguments before the sentence was decided.
The CBI said Santosh had shown little remorse through the 10 years since the murder in 1996. Santosh had attacked Priyadarshini’s body 19 times after raping her, and bashed her head with a helmet, making the case a fit one for death penalty, the prosecution said.