Countering arguments that the Bombay High Court's judgment to commute the convict Ankur Panwar's death sentence in the Preeti Rathi acid attack case was as per norms keeping the age of the attacker in mind, Rathi's mother Roshni Devi asked that when the Panwar did not consider her daughter's age while attacking, why should the high court consider Panwar's age, when she appeared on Republic TV's 'Arnab Goswami on the Debate' on Tuesday along with her son Hitesh Rathi.
"The day he attacked my daughter, did he ask her age? Now, what is his age? She was a child. A blooming flower had left my house and I got her back in my fists. Did he not think then about her age? Had she known she would face death? If such attackers are left unpunished what kind of future will girls face?," she asked.
Earlier in the debate, she had said that she would fight till Panwar is hanged adding that while Panwar would live his life in prison, she had already lost her daughter and husband.
"Total injustice has happened to us. I had hoped that he (Panwar) would be hanged and that did not happen. I would have been satisfied only then. First, he used to trouble her, and once she got a job, he stole her life. I have lost my child and am very disappointed. He will live his life, where will I get back my daughter? Irrespective of where I have to go, I will fight till he is hanged," said Roshni Devi.
Earlier in the day, the city high court upheld the conviction of a 25-year-old man in the 2013 Preeti Rathi acid attack case but commuted his death penalty to life imprisonment. A division bench of justices B P Dharmadhikari and P D Naik partly allowed the appeal filed by convict Ankur Panwar, challenging the death penalty awarded to him by a special court in 2015. This was the first instance of the death penalty being awarded by a court in the country in a case of acid attack.
"The conviction under IPC Sections 302 (murder) and 326 (b) (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid) is upheld. The death sentence is commuted to life imprisonment," the bench said.
The Bombay High Court commuted the death penalty to life imprisonment on finding that the case at hand could not be termed as rarest of the rare. The Court stated that the trial court did not apply its mind to the factors enumerated in Bachan Singh v State of Punjab and other relevant cases. These cases lay down that the death penalty should be served only in the rarest of rare cases.
The High Court found that the trial court, in this case, had relied on collective conscience and crime test but ignored the criminal test as laid down in several decisions. It also found that the mitigating factors laid down in Bachan Singh would apply in this case. Therefore, it was not an appropriate case to give a death penalty, the Court ruled. Its order stated:
"The accused was a young boy aged about 23 years at the time of the commission of offence. There is no past criminal record. There was nothing to indicate that the accused was beyond reformation and rehabilitation, as mandated in the case of Bachan Singh and other cases."
Rathi, a 23-year-old nurse, who was to join the Navy hospital in Mumbai, died after an acid attack in May 2013 by her stalker Panwar. On May 2, 2013, acid was flung on Rathi when she got down from Garib Rath Express at the Bandra Railway Terminus. She was supposed to join Colaba Naval hospital INS Ashwini as a staff nurse. Having suffered severe damage to her lungs, she succumbed to the injuries on June 1 at the Bombay Hospital.