SC acquittal of gang-rape, murder accused puts focus on infirmities in trial process

The SC observed that lack of clinching evidence and glaring lapses in the trial left it with no other alternative but to set the three accused free

Representative Photo
Representative Photo

Zenaira Bakhsh

The Supreme Court on Monday acquitted three men found guilty in February 2014 by a trial court and sentenced to death for brutally gangraping and murdering a 19-year-old woman.

The sentence had been upheld by Delhi High Court in August, 2014.

A bench of former Chief Justice U U Lalit and Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Bela M Trivedi acquitted the three men – Rahul, Ravi Kumar, and Vinod alias Chhotu – stating that the prosecution, whose case rested on circumstantial evidence, had failed to prove it.

The three persons Rahul, 27, Ravi, 23, and Vinod, 23, were accused of abducting the girl while she was returning home from her workplace on 9 February 2012.

During its investigation, the police found a mutilated body of the girl near Rewari in Haryana on February 14. As per the autopsy report, she had been assaulted and raped and acid was poured on her eyes.

The SC's decision came after it heard the submissions of Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati who urged confirmation of the death penalty and amicus curia, senior advocate Sonia Mathur who sought its reversal.

Case history

On a cold evening in February 2012, the victim was returning home with three other friends from Gurugram’s Cyber Hub when she was allegedly dragged and bundled into a vehicle by the trio near her house in the Qutub Vihar area of Dwarka. Three days later, her body was found by the Haryana Police in a mustard field in Rewari, mutilated.

As per the Delhi Police, multiple injuries were found on the victim's body. Investigations revealed that the woman had sustained massive injuries apart from rape and that she had been attacked with car tools, glass bottles, and other weapons.

According to an NDTV report, acid had been poured into the woman’s eyes, and a bottle of liquor was inserted in her private parts.

After the accused were caught, a case was lodged against them under IPC sections pertaining to gang rape, murder, kidnapping, and unnatural sex.

One of the accused, Ravi, had allegedly roped in the co-accused for the crime as the victim had rejected his proposal for friendship, the police had said.

In 2014, a trial court found the three men guilty and sentenced them to death. The court, however, acquitted them of unnatural sex due to a lack of evidence.

In August 2014, the Delhi High Court confirmed capital punishment. The three men, however, challenged the order in the Supreme Court, later in 2015 and the judgment was reserved in April this year.

SC judgment

For the past decade, the woman's parents had been fighting to get justice for her and to see the accused be given the death penalty. However, the SC on Monday acquitted the three men in the case, saying lack of clinching evidence and glaring lapses in the trial left it with no other alternative but to let them go free.

The SC judgment read, “In the instant case, material witnesses examined by the prosecution having not been either cross-examined or adequately examined and the trial court also having acted as a passive umpire, we find that the appellants-accused were deprived of their rights to have a fair trial, apart from the fact that the truth also could not be elicited by the trial court.”

The court said that many important witnesses in the case had not been adequately cross-examined by the defense counsel.

The judges in their judgment also found that the evidence transpired that neither any TI (test identification) parade was conducted by the investigating officer during the course of investigation for the identification of the accused, nor any of the witnesses had identified the accused during their respective depositions before the court.

“Therefore, the very identity of the appellants-accused having not been duly established, the entire case of the prosecution falls flat on the very first circumstance having not been duly proved by any evidence, much less clinching evidence, against the appellants-accused,” the judgment read.

The judgment went on to read, as per an Indian Express report, “As demonstrated earlier, the evidence with regard to the arrest of the appellants-accused, their identification, discoveries and recoveries of the incriminating articles, identity of the Indica Car, the seizures and sealing of the articles and collection of samples, the medical and scientific evidence, the report of DNA profiling, the evidence with regard to the CDRs, etc were not proved by the prosecution by leading, cogent, clinching and clear evidence much less unerringly pointing the guilt of the accused.”

In acquitting the trio, Justice Bela Trivedi wrote in the judgment that “the prosecution has to bring home the charges leveled against them beyond reasonable doubt, which the prosecution has failed to do in the instant case, resultantly, the court is left with no alternative but to acquit the accused, though involved in a very heinous crime.”

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