Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Friday acquitted six people in the Yavatmal human sacrifice case of 2012.
The judgment was passed by a bench comprising Justice PN Deshmukh and Justice MG Giratkar.
In October 2012, a seven-year-old girl was killed in Yavatmal district. As per the prosecution case, one of the convicts, Durga Shirbhate had claimed that she had been possessed by a goddess. She had then told the accused persons that the goddess needed human blood of a child to save the entire village from its wrath.
Consequently, the minor girl was taken to the home of one of the accused, where her head was chopped off for performing rituals and her body was buried. The incident came to light about one and a half months later when a missing complaint filed by the girl’s parents led to the recovery of her body parts.
The six accused, residents of Choramba village in Ghatanji tehsil, were then found guilty under section 302 of IPC and were awarded death penalty. Shirbhate was awarded five years of rigorous imprisonment for destruction of evidence.
Examining the evidence presented before it, the high court, however, now opined that there was nothing on record to connect the accused persons with the alleged crime.
“Learned trial Court has relied on the Memorandum Statements and has come to the conclusion that there was conspiracy between accused Nos.1 to 8. Accused No.8 Durga told that human sacrifice is necessary for the benefit of their family and village. Therefore, they made a plan and committed murder of Sapna by giving human sacrifice to the Goddess. It is pertinent to note that there is no evidence in respect of kidnapping of Sapna by any of the accused.
“There is no evidence to prove that there was conspiracy between accused Nos.1 to 8 to give human sacrifice to the Goddess and, therefore, this circumstance cannot be said to be proved against the accused persons,” it observed.
The court further noted that the prosecution case is built on circumstantial evidence, without the chain of evidence being complete. Besides, the fact that the victim’s parents did not support the prosecution case also weighed in the convicts’ favour.
It, therefore, acquitted all the accused, including Durga, who had not filed an appeal against her conviction, observing, “In that view of the matter, though accused no.8 Durga has not preferred any appeal, on evaluating evidence, since we are satisfied and have reached to the conclusion that no conviction of any of the accused can be based, benefit of this decision is also necessary to be extended to said accused as she is also similarly situated co-accused, even though she has not challenged her conviction in appeal. In the circumstances, the Judgment of conviction against accused no.8 Durga is also liable to be quashed and set aside.”