A 23-year-old convict, who was granted a death sentence by a lower court, was granted a double life sentence by the Bombay High Court yesterday. The man was arrested by the Sangli police in 2012 for allegedly raping his niece and later killing her. A bench of Justices V K Tahilramani and G S Gadkari turned the death sentence of Vitthal Tukaram Atugade into a double life sentence.
The mother of the four-year-old girl had taken her on a visit to her parents in Atugade village in Islampur, Sangli in December 2012. Vitthal, who is the cousin of the mother, told her that he was taking his four-year-old niece to a salon.
“But on the way to the salon he stopped by a secluded place and allegedly sexually assaulted the girl. He later waited for four hours to see if the girl died but when she did not he dragged her for 1,800 metres and then strangled her and buried her body. It was a brutal act,” said Geeta Mulekar, public prosecutor in the case.
Later Vitthal absconded, but a villager saw him in a nearby village at a tea stall. He informed the villagers and they took Vitthal to Atugade where he confessed to the crime, and he was booked by the local police for rape, kidnapping, and murder, said a lawyer.
A Sessions Court in Islampur had convicted and sentenced Atugade to death for the crime in February 2014. “There were several anomalies in the investigation like when the girl had gone with her mother’s permission with Atugade, he could not be booked for kidnapping. There were also flaws in the panchanama and the accused’s age was just 20 when the crime took place. On these arguments we requested the court to consider the plea of Atugade,” said advocate Abhay Kumar Apte who represented Atugade.
Atugade has been granted two consecutive life sentences by the court, which means he will be in jail for 28 years.