New Delhi: The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday stayed the Delhi High Court order, awarding death penalty to Santosh Kumar Singh in the Priyadarshini Mattoo rape and murder case.
The court also issued a notice to the Central Bureau of Investigation on an appeal filed by the convict against the high court's judgement.
Singh had filed a mandatory criminal appeal, challenging his death sentence in the 11-year-old case. All eyes will now be on the CBI as it presents its defense in the case.
Currently lodged in Tihar Jail, Singh, the son of a former senior IPS officer, has challenged his conviction and sentence on the grounds that the high court order was not based on 'evidence on the record' and his acquittal by the trial correct was correct and proper.
The 37-year-old Singh has also pleaded that the observation of the HC while convicting him did not find any basis against the evidence on record.
The HC, which conducted a day-to-day hearing on the case following a public outcry, in its judgement on October 27, 2006 had reversed the trial court verdict acquitting him of the offence of raping and murdering 23-year-old Mattoo.
The HC judges, Justices R S Sodhi and P K Bhasin, while setting aside the lower court's verdict, had termed it as "perverse" and sentenced Singh to death, saying he deserved nothing less.
Singh's acquittal by Additional Sessions Judge G P Thareja on December 3, 1999 had shocked the nation as the judge had said that he knew the accused had committed the crime, but gave him the benefit of doubt because of lack of evidence.
The Mattoo trial lasted six years. A retrial appeal, filed by the CBI in 2000, was taken on a priority basis following a public outcry and media pressure. Mattoo, a Delhi University Law student, was raped and murdered at her Vasant Kunj residence in South Delhi on January 23, 1996.
Singh had began harassing Mattoo in January and February 1995. In August, November and December that year he began stalking her, telephoning her at her residence and at a hospital where her mother had been admitted.
Mattoo lodged 11 police complaints against him, following which, he apologised to her. She was even provided with a personal security officer by the police on the orders of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, but Santosh continued to harass her and allegedly raped and killed her at her Vasant Kunj residence on January 23, 1996.