Lucknow: Vishnu Tiwari (43) served 20 years in jail for a crime he had never committed. He was finally released from Agra Jail after the Allahabad High Court declared him innocent and acquitted him of false rape charges which had earned him life sentence from the trial court.
Like any other youngster, 23-year-old Vishnu Tiwari, a resident of Lalitpur district, was carrying a dream to get a decent job. But his dream was short-lived. A Dalit woman from Silawan village in Lalitpur falsely implicated him with rape, sexual exploitation and criminal intimidation in September 2000.
Worse, the trial court found him guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment. In 2003, he was shifted to Agra Jail where he spent 17 years behind bars. Jail officials claimed that he was soft-spoken, well-mannered and his behaviour earned him respect from other inmates.
He learnt culinary skills in jail and soon became one of the best cooks. Tiwari would not only ensure hygienic conditions while cooking but wash dishes to keep the jail kitchen and mess clean.
In 2005, he challenged the trial court order in High Court. But the case could not make much headway because he had no means to pay for hefty fees of lawyers.
One of his brothers disowned him and the other never came to meet him in Agra jail. His father will occasionally come to see him. In 2014, his father died. His two brothers are also no more.
Keeping sympathy with Tiwari, Jail authorities filed an appeal in 2020 in the Allahabad High Court for Tiwari's release. On January 28, a two-member bench comprising Justice K.J. Thaker and Justice Gautam Choudhary found him not guilty and ordered for his release. It took 33 days for the HC order to reach Agra for his release.
On Wednesday, Vishnu Tiwari, now 43, was set free by Jail authorities. Those who knew him for long in jail gave him a warm farewell. For, he was finally absolved of rape charges but after paying heavy cost of spending 20 years behind bars to prove his innocence. At least, justice was delayed but not denied for Tiwari.
He came out of jail only to find no one there to receive him. With Rs 600 in his pocket, bags full of clothes and a copy of the High Court order, he left for his village in Lalitpur to finish an unfinished job.
“I will go back to my village in Lalitpur to get back my honour and show them the High Court order to proclaim my innocence,” he told media persons outside jail.
Before he left for an unknown journey, Tiwari appealed to legal luminaries to take up cases of many innocents (like him) who are languishing in jails for crimes they never committed. "No one should suffer like me," he uttered in a quavering voice.