A division bench of justices PN Prakash and CV Karthikeyan yesterday commuted the death sentence awarded by the Tirupur Mahila Court to Selvam alias Koolai Selvam to life term.
It also slapped a fine of Rs 5,000 on the convict and said if he failed to pay the amount, he would have to undergo another year of rigorous imprisonment.
The two prison terms would run consecutively and not concurrently, the court said.
The court said there was no evidence against another accused, Rangaraj, who too was awarded death penalty by the lower court, and acquitted him of all the charges.
The court, which also set free two other accused in the case -- Nagaraj and Anandan -- however, upheld the life sentence of another accused, Deivasigamani.
According to the prosecution, a dispute had arisen between Selvam and one Thangavelu over a financial transaction in 2015 and subsequently, the latter was killed by a gang, led by the former.
Investigations revealed that both Thangavelu and his daughter, Mahalakshmi, were burnt to death at different places under the Mangalam police station limits in Tirupur and Vadavalli police station limits in Coimbatore, by the gang.
Reducing the sentence, the bench said, "Insofar as Selvam (A1) is concerned, the sentencing must address his concerns in relation to judicial discretion and there must be an equal treatment of similarly situated convicts."
It observed that though it held Selvam guilty of the murders of Thangavelu and Mahalakshmi, the question which had to be addressed was, whether his act warranted capital punishment or whether life imprisonment, "which would act not only as a retribution for his crime, but also, to some extent, hopefully reform him", would be sufficient.
"However, had this motive been removed or had this entire incident not surfaced in the life of Selvam, the court should also ask the question whether he would still have pushed himself to commit a grisly crime of murder.
"If the answer is 'yes', then certainly, he would deserve capital punishment, but, if there is a doubt that he might not have exhibited the same conduct, then it is only just that the court also recognises the fact and awards him life imprisonment," it said.
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