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"Investigation Was Anything But Scientific": Allahabad High Court Acquits Rape-Murder Accused, Sets Aside Death Penalty

Sparsh Upadhyay
16 March 2022 4:07 PM GMT
Investigation Was Anything But Scientific: Allahabad High Court Acquits Rape-Murder Accused, Sets Aside Death Penalty
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The Allahabad High Court today rejected the reference made to it to confirm the death penalty awarded to a man accused of Raping and murdering a 75-year-old woman. The Court observed that the investigation in the case had not been up to the mark.Acquitting the accused, the Bench of Justice Manoj Misra and Justice Sameer Jain noted that in the instant case, blood and other biological material...

The Allahabad High Court today rejected the reference made to it to confirm the death penalty awarded to a man accused of Raping and murdering a 75-year-old woman. The Court observed that the investigation in the case had not been up to the mark.

Acquitting the accused, the Bench of Justice Manoj Misra and Justice Sameer Jain noted that in the instant case, blood and other biological material were not collected from the accused of DNA profiling as per the requirement of section 53-A CrPC.

The case in brief 

As per the written report/FIR lodged by the husband (PW-1) of the victim/deceased (75-year-old woman) on February 24, 2017, alleged that his wife (victim) had gone to the field to harvest the mustard crop and when she did not return, PW-1 went in search of her.

During a search for the victim, PW-3 (a lady) informed PW-1 that she saw two men taking the victim into the field of X. On receipt of information when the field of X was scanned, in between standing sugarcane crop of X, the victim was found lying dead with clothes torn.

Further, by alleging that PW-4 (grandson of PW-1) had informed the informant of having seen the appellant/accused with another man running away, FIR was lodged against the appellant and one unknown person.

Two days after the incident, the appellant/accused was arrested and he was medically examined on that very day, which revealed no fresh and external injury but the medical examination report had not been exhibited.

Around 1 month after the incident, a charge-sheet was submitted against the appellant under Section 302/376 I.P.C. on which, after taking cognizance, the case was committed to the Court of Session and, after the trial, the Additional District & Sessions Judge/Fast Track, Amroha convicted the appellant under Sections 302 and 376 I.P.C.

Consequently, he was punished with the death penalty under Section 302 I.P.C. and imprisonment for life and under Section 376 IPC along with a fine. As the death penalty had been awarded, the court below sent a reference to HC for confirmation of the death penalty.

HC's observations 

The HC primarily analyzed the ocular evidence/account offered by PW-3 (who was an eyewitness of the whole incident) and PW-4/grandson of the deceased (who gave the eyewitness account of a circumstance).

Regarding the testimony of PW-3, the Court noted that the lady had stated that while she was picking grass in her field, she saw that the appellant/accused came there, held the deceased by her hand and pulled her, and took her into the sugarcane field and when PW3 reached the spot, she saw accused-appellant committing rape and after committing rape, the appellant killed the deceased and seeing all of this, she got scared and went home and disclosed all of this to PW-1/husband of the deceased.

Now, the Court noted that PW-3 did not disclose whether the deceased raised an alarm and whether she heard shrieks of the deceased and whether the deceased offered resistance, in such circumstances, the Court wondered as to how could she assume that the accused-appellant had committed rape upon the deceased.

The Court further noted that the PW-1 had denied receiving any such information from PW-3 on the day of the incident, and the same was also reflected by the FIR lodged by PW-1.

Therefore, taking into account her statement as a whole, the Court opined that her testimony did not inspire confidence, and further it came to the following conclusion:

"...she is just a chance witness; she does not state that she reached the place of occurrence on hearing shrieks or cries; she gives no descriptions of resistance being offered by the deceased; she gives no description of how the deceased was murdered; she states that information of the incident was given to the police and PW-1 on the day of the incident, which is incorrect, rather, she gave information next day, after cremation; and her conduct of returning back home and then going again to break the news to PW-1 appears unnatural...Either she just saw what is disclosed in the FIR lodged by PW-1, that is, two unknown men taking the deceased into sugarcane field, or she is spinning a story."

Further, the Court did not find the evidence/account rendered by the PW-4 to be trustworthy and opined that the prosecution's case was of blind murder and the case was built on guesswork or suspicion or to work out the case at the suggestion of the police.

Further, the Court also found that the investigation in the case had not been up to the mark as it noted that a trouser and shoes were noticed near the body at the spot, however, the same was not seized.

"Most importantly, blood and other biological material was not collected from the accused for DNA profiling as per the requirement of section 53-A CrPC. It is difficult to accept that if the accused-appellant had committed rape and had left his trouser on the spot, there would be no material available for DNA profiling. This raises a question regarding the bona fides of the investigation... Further, the rape of an aged woman, who is a stranger to the accused, baffles us. It was therefore a case where the investigating agency ought to have been diligent and circumspect because of the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that fouler the crime stricter the proof. But, here, in the age of scientific advancement, the investigation was anything but scientific," the Court observed as it concluded that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges against the appellant beyond a reasonable doubt.

Therefore, the benefit of the doubt was given to the accused and consequently, the appeal was allowed. The impugned judgment and order of the trial court was set aside. The reference to confirm the death penalty was answered in the negative and the prayer to confirm the death penalty was rejected.

Case title - Upendra v. State of U.P.
Case citation: 
2022 LiveLaw (AB) 123

Click Here To Read/Download Judgment

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