The Bombay High Court on Friday dismissed a petition filed by one Gopal Shetye, whose rape conviction was overturned in appeal. He was seeking Rs 200 crore in damages from the state machinery.
A bench of Justice SC Dharmadhikari and Justice PD Naik passed the 88-page judgment after reserving it on March 20.
According to the prosecution, Gopal Shetye was arrested on July 29, 2009, following an FIR filed by the complainant, who said in her statement that the accused’s name was “Gopi” and he raped her while she was sleeping over a bridge near Ghatkopar Railway Station.
She identified the petitioner (accused) during the identification parade.
On May 31, 2010, Shetye was convicted of rape and sentenced to seven years in jail.
Although Shetye filed an appeal against his acquittal in 2010, it was finally allowed on June 10, 2015. By this time, Shetye had already spent seven years in jail.
The state filed an SLP in the Supreme Court against Shetye’s acquittal, which was dismissed in October 2016.
Submissions and Observations
Petitioner’s counsel Nilesh Ojha submitted that his client had to undergo mental agony on account of his wrongful detention in custody and his family life was completely ruined during the pendency of trial.
His wife married another man, his daughters were kept in an orphanage, he lost a respectable job and suffered an irreparable loss of reputation. Hence, the prayer for compensation.
The bench observed that the trial court had primarily relied on the statement of the rape victim who filed the complaint in order to convict Shetye.
While the appellate court had stated that there was “indeed a real substantial doubt” about the identity of the appellant as the culprit, so the trail court should have given him the benefit of doubt and acquitted him.
The court also noted that the acquittal was on account of infirmities in the evidence or inaction on the part of investigating agency and that the defence had not established that there was no sexual assault.
The bench observed: “When orders of acquittal in criminal cases are passed based on which claims for compensation and damages are instituted, then, it would have to be decided whether the acquittal is clear and doubtless. Acquittal by giving benefit of doubt is not an honourable acquittal.”
Thus, the petition was dismissed.
Read the Judgment here.