Bombay High Court acquits man who was sentenced to death by Trial Court for raping a minor

Bombay High Court acquits man who was sentenced to death by Trial Court for raping a minor

A man who was convicted by trial court for raping and killing a 13-year-old minor girl was acquitted by the Bombay High Court as it found the prosecution evidence not satisfactory enough to sustain the conviction. The division bench of Bombay High Court held that the prosecution failed to prove the chain of circumstances since there were no medical or forensic evidence, or eyewitnesses, to connect the accused to the crime.The court also held that though the modus-operandi for committing a crime can be a relevant evidence, it does not absolve State from collecting evidence and proving case beyond reasonable doubts in subsequent offence. Anil JagannathPawar, one of the accused, was sentenced to death by the Trial Court on 16.10.2014. While awarding death sentence to the accused, the trial court had opined that “It is useless and fruitless act to water a rotten plant at Exchequer's expenses”and “it is not safe for society to keep accused alive   for   its   future   security   and   safety.”

The prosecution version about the alleged crime against accused was that,on 13.8.2011, at about 10.30 in the morning, the deceased was passing on bicycle  and accused dragged the victim girl inside the field. She was taken inside portion of standing sugarcane crop and she was raped and murdered. Father of Victim who noticed the bicycle lying, along with other villagers, found thedead body of the victim in naked condition in the crop. She had injuries on various parts of her body including vagina.  The accused was arrested on 22.08.2011, based on the testimony of one Nanasaheb Dange, who claimed that he had seen him near the field before the incident took place. The police naturally suspected him as he was a convict in another case.  The police discovered the knife allegedly used in the incident and the motorcycle found from Wahegaon from a house of his father-in-law.  The post mortem had revealed death due to asphyxia due to compression of neck associated with genital injuries.

During the trial accused pleaded not guilty. According to him, he was arrested merely on suspicion.  He said that the girl had suffered injury to her vagina due to pedal of bicycle and to her head due to handle of bicycle when she fell. The prosecution examined 14 witnesses.

The trial Court considered the evidence brought on record by the prosecution and convicted the accused for the rape and murder of the victim and interalia took note of the earlier convictions and imposed death sentence on the accused. The court observed that the prosecution have proved its case by unbreakable chain of circumstantial evidence from probability to possibility and more than 50% of certainty that accused No.1 Anil Jagannath Pawar have  committed rape and murder of 13 years old victim girl. The conduct of accused shown his motive, preparation, previous and subsequent conduct compelled the trial Court to draw adverse inference against him under section 8 of Indian Evidence Act.

The High court, pointed out that since there were no direct witnesses and no footprints of the accused were seen on the spot, the circumstance tried to be proved by the prosecution of seeing the accused near the spot is material. The whole circumstantial evidence of prosecution revolves around the testimony of Nanasaheb. The court held that it is too risky to link the accused to the incident on that basis as he claims to have identified the accused only on the basis of clothes and description seen from far distance and not on the basis that he had clearly seen the face of the accused and could identify him.Hence prosecution evidence on circumstance, was held to be unreliable. Regarding the seizure of cloths, knife and motor cycle used by the accused, the court found inconsistencies and lapses in prosecution version, which gives a room to doubt the manner in which the investigation has been done. Regarding the DNA report, the court held that the forensic examination of the body of the victim, her clothes, evidence picked from spot does not have any link to thethe clothes, blood etc., taken from the accused.After going through all the evidence, the court heldthat the prosecution has failed to link the accused with the incident or prove his guilt.

The Judgment, also discusses the relevancy of earlier offences vis-à-vis the present charge against the accused. The court held, that the relevant provisions of The Evidence Act, Sections 53 and 54, makes it amply clear that such evidences of bad character of accused is not relevant for the offences under sections 302, 376 of the Indian Penal Code, in the set of factsof the case. The  court held that  the evidence led by the prosecution of earlier similar cases against the accused was inadmissible. The Trial court, according to the High court, erred in weighing the evidence of previous convictionsheavily for the purposes of holding the offence proved as well as imposing of death penalty.If such evidence of earlier offence and in this manner was to be allowed, the accused can be convicted for every similar subsequent offences without there being necessity to establish the subsequent offence by any evidence.

Read the Judgment here.