Benefit Of Doubt: Bombay HC Acquits Man Convicted Of Rape-Murder Of 6-Yr-Old As He Was Found Simply Sleeping Beside The Victim [Read Judgment]

Benefit Of Doubt: Bombay HC Acquits Man Convicted Of Rape-Murder Of 6-Yr-Old As He Was Found Simply Sleeping Beside The Victim [Read Judgment]

Giving the benefit of doubt to the accused, the Bombay High Court recently acquitted a man convicted under Sections 302 and 376(f) of the Indian Penal Code. Gaikwad was found sleeping over a foot away from the victim girl aged 6 years, who was found in an unconscious state with injuries to her private parts.

A division bench of Justice BR Gavai and Justice Sarang Kotwal were hearing the accused’s challenge to a judgment by the trial court sentencing him to life, convicting him.

Case Background

On September 4, 2009, the deceased victim’s father had lodged an FIR at Cuffe Parade Police Station at 5:50 am. He stated that he could not find his 6-year-old daughter in the hut they stay in. Thereafter, he along with his wife searched for their daughter only to find her in an unconscious state with injuries to her private parts.

The accused was found sleeping one and a half foot away from the victim and he was only wearing shorts, according to the victim’s parents.

As the incident took place on the day of Ganpati immersion, there was a heavy police presence on the road, hence the accused was immediately arrested.

The victim was taken to St. Georges’ Hospital, where she was declared dead. Thereafter, the FIR was lodged.

Submissions and Judgment

Appearing for the accused, Jayshree Tripathi argued that there was a strong possibility that somebody else had committed the offence and left the victim where she was found. She submitted that since the huts in the area were made of fishing nets, they had no doors hence it was easy for anybody to enter the hut.

On the other hand, Additional Public Prosecutor HJ Dedhia simply relied on the statement of the parents and the fact that the accused was found lying beside the victim in order to prove that the crime was committed by the accused.

After examining all the evidence at hand, the court was not satisfied with the accused’s guilt. Justice Kotwal said:

“Considering the prosecution evidence, it is clear that the prosecution witnesses are not telling any false story.   However, the case of the prosecution still does not travel beyond suspicion. Admittedly, those were the days of heavy rush and heavy police bandobast during the nights. The evidence shows that the police officers were present near the spot where the deceased was found. The only evidence against the Appellant is that he was found sleeping near the deceased. The evidence shows that in the area, the huts were made of fishing nets and there were no doors to the huts. That means anybody could enter any hut without obstruction and without being noticed. The conduct of the Appellant sleeping peacefully does not fit with the allegations against him. 

On the other hand, the possibility cannot be ruled out that somebody else, after commission of the offence, could have kept the dead body near him. In a case based purely on circumstantial evidence, the prosecution has to rule out all other hyphotheses except that of the guilt of the accused. In the instant case, the strong possibility that somebody else could have committed the offence and then left the deceased near the Appellant who was fast sleep, is not ruled out. There are absolutely no other circumstances connecting the present Appellant with the crime.”

It was also noted how the medical examination of the accused revealed that there was no presence of semen or vaginal fluid on the private parts of the accused.

Thus, the benefit of doubt was given to the accused and his appeal against conviction was allowed.

Read the Judgment Here