Mumbai : In a landmark judgment, a special women’s court awarded death penalty to Ankur Panwar, the lone accused in the infamous Preeti Rathi acid attack case of 2013.
A resident of New Delhi, Rathi, 23, was attacked shortly after she alighted from the Garib Rath Express at Bandra terminus on the morning of May 2, 2013. She succumbed to multiple organ failure on account of the severe acid burns on June 1 that year.
Panwar, who managed to evade suspicion for eight months after the incident, was finally nabbed on January 17, 2014, by the Mumbai Crime Branch from his New Delhi home. Both the victim and the accused were neighbours and family friends in Bhakra Beas Management Board Colony.
‘‘This is the first case of death penalty in an acid attack case in the country after the amendment to the relevant laws in 2013. It will serve as a major deterrent to potential offenders,” Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam told a wire agency, hailing the judgment.
Special judge deems Rathi acid attack case as ‘rarest of rare’
Special Judge Anju Shende’s ruling came a day after the prosecution sought capital punishment for Panwar. “Aapko faansi ki saza di jaati hai (you are given death penalty),” Judge Shende told Panwar, who was standing in the witness box.
Welcoming the ruling, Amar Singh Rathi, the father of the deceased said, “Though it took three years but finally my daughter has got justice. This is the best way to punish a heinous crime offender. An example has been set for those who think that they can harm girls. This verdict brings justice for many other victims and, at the same time, it will save many innocent girls from similar fate.’’
Ujjwal Nikam, the special public prosecutor, described Panwar as a ‘menace’ to the society. In the course of the hearing, he had dubbed it as the ‘rarest of rare’ case fit for awarding ‘death’ penalty. He had told the court that if it awards a lesser punishment, then the lives of other innocent girls would be endangered. This is the 38th case in which Nikam has secured death sentence.
On the other hand, Apekasha Vora, the counsel representing Panwar, had cited his tender age, poor family background and lack of criminal record as mitigating factors and sought a lesser punishment. After the verdict, Vora said, “We will approach the Bombay High Court and challenge the verdict within 30 days.”
23-year old Rathi was a nurse and had arrived in Mumbai to join the Indian Navy’s INS Asvini Hospital when the incident cut short her life and career. ‘‘It was a case of unrequited love. Panwar had asked her not to travel to Mumbai and wanted to marry her, but the girl had rejected his marriage proposal,” Nikam told the media after the verdict.