Supreme Court Relief For Man Facing Death Penalty In Rape And Murder Case

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The Supreme Court has quashed the conviction and death penalty awarded to a man for the alleged rape and murder of a six-year-old girl in 2010, saying “multitudinous lapses” in the investigation have compromised the quest to punish the doer of such a barbaric act in absolute peril.
Referring to the manner in which probe into the case was undertaken by the Maharashtra Police, the top court said numerous lapses blot the entire map and there were “yawning gaps” in the chain of circumstances rendering it far from being established.

A bench headed by Justice B R Gavai delivered its verdict on the appeals filed by the accused against the October 2015 judgement of the Bombay High Court which had affirmed the conviction and death sentence awarded to him by a trial court.

While allowing the appeals, the top court quashed the verdict convicting the accused and directed that he be set at liberty forthwith, if not required in any other case.

The bench, also comprising justices Vikram Nath and Sanjay Karol, said it was true that the unfortunate incident did take place and at a tender age of six, a life for which much was in store in the future was terrifyingly destroyed and extinguished.

It said the parents of the victim have suffered an unfathomable loss, a wound for which there is no remedy.

“Despite such painful realities being part of this case, we cannot hold within law, the prosecution to have undergone all necessary lengths and efforts to take the steps necessary for driving home the guilt of the appellant and that of none else in the crime,” the bench said in its judgement delivered on Friday.

“There are, in fact, yawning gaps in the chain of circumstances rendering it far from being established-pointing to the guilt of the appellant,” it said.

The top court noted that an FIR was lodged in June 2010 at Thane in Maharashtra and the trial court, in November 2014, had convicted the accused and imposed capital punishment for the offence of murder.

It said the courts below had concurrently found the prosecution to have established the case beyond reasonable doubt that the accused, after sexually assaulting the minor girl, had put her to death and thrown the body in a drain to destroy the evidence.

The top court noted that it was a case of circumstantial evidence, as none has witnessed the crime for which the appellant stands charged.

“The prosecution case is primarily based, not on ocular evidence but on the confessional statement of the appellant leading to the recovery of incriminating articles and through scientific analysis establishing his guilt. The sheet-anchor of the case being the DNA analysis report…,” it said.

The bench said even though the DNA evidence by way of a report was present, “its reliability is not infallible, especially not so in light of the fact that the uncompromised nature of such evidence cannot be established; and other that cogent evidence as can be seen from our discussion above, is absent almost in its entirety.” The bench said the reasons why the investigation officers were changed time and again were “surprising and unexplained”.

It noted there was unexplained delay in sending the samples collected for analysis, the alleged disclosure statement of the appellant was never read over and explained to him in his vernacular language and what was the basis of him being a suspect at the first instance, remains a mystery.

“….such multitudinous lapses have compromised the quest to punish the doer of such a barbaric act in absolute peril,” the bench said.

It said the crime committed against the minor child was unquestionably evil and wrong on its own, without the prohibition of law making it so.

“This fact, coupled with the duty upon the investigating authorities not only to protect the citizens of the country, but also ensure fair and proper investigations into crimes affecting the society, as in the present case, casts upon such authorities, in the considered view of this court, not only legal but also a moral duty to take all possible steps within the letter of the law to bring the doers of such acts to the book,” the bench said.

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