|Crime of passion: Khusboo & Bijendra
Jharkhand High Court on Thursday reversed the death sentence awarded to Bijendra Prasad by a lower court for decapitating his estranged lover Khusboo Kumari on St Xavier’s College campus in Ranchi more than a year ago.
A division bench of Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Prashant Kumar, hearing the 24-year-old convict’s appeal challenging capital punishment, observed that the murder was committed out of “deep emotional love” or “sheer frustration” and the petitioner deserved a second chance.
The hearing for a fresh sentence has been adjourned to September 11.
Khusboo (19) — a resident of Tupudana and student of Ram Manohar Lohia College in Ranchi — was decapitated by a khukuri-weilding Bijendra, then an aspiring engineer from Jamshedpur, right outside her intermediate exam venue at St Xavier’s College on April 27, 2011.
Bijendra was apprehended and taken into custody the same day. As many as 22 witnesses were examined in the case in the trial court before judicial commissioner S.H. Kazmi convicted the youth of “cold-blooded murder” and put him on death row on May 2 this year.
The division bench of the high court, which heard Bijendra’s appeal for the past three days, held that the “rarest of rare” expression could be used only for extraordinary and exceptional cases.
“Courts have to be mindful and understand the rationale and purpose of the doctrine before awarding a capital sentence,” the bench said.
Examining every detail in the case, the judges on Thursday ordered that the murder weapon be produced in court. The blood-stained khukuri was brought in a box containing exhibits marked in the lower court and shown to the bench. It was later sealed in the box for further orders.
The bench observed that the area of awarding a sentence was the discretion of a judge. “Life imprisonment is a rule, while death is an exception for the offence of murder. It is an extra burden on a judge to interpret every case as a rule or treat it as an exception. If there are chances of rehabilitation of the accused, the death sentence should be avoided,” it said.
After going through all the records, the court further held that Bijendra was in love with Khusboo, who was also in “talking terms” with him. Besides, the teenager was scheduled to get married on May 27, 2011, a fact not unknown to her lover.
“Whether he (Bijendra) committed the murder out of high degree of love or frustration cannot be decided. Considering his age at the time of the offence, the state has not been able to make out a case for confirming death sentence,” the court said.
The bench also observed that courts were bound by laws and precedents. “The crime undoubtedly shocks the society and judicial conscience, but the interpretation of laws has to be upheld and the matter needs deliberation,” it added.