Supreme Court acquits death row convict from Mumbai over procedural lapses in probe against him

Supreme Court acquits death row convict from Mumbai over procedural lapses in probe against him

The SC bench, comprising Justices B R Gavai, Vikram Nath and Sanjay Karol, set aside the order of conviction passed by the trial court and Bombay High Court, while directing that the appellant be set at liberty, if not required in any other case.

Suresh GolaniUpdated: Monday, May 22, 2023, 12:24 PM IST
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Supreme Court | PTI

The Supreme Court, on Friday, acquitted a convict who had been awarded the death penalty by Bombay High Court after being held guilty of raping and murdering a six-year-old girl living in a Bhayandar slum in 2010.

Bhayandar police arrested man for rape, murder of minor

On June 11, 2010, the girl, who lived with her family, went missing when she stepped out of their tenement, to play after dinner. The following day, the body of the child was found in the gutter, with multiple injuries on her private parts. An autopsy confirmed rape and murder. The Bhayandar police registered an offence (FIR  109/2010) under Indian Penal Code sections 376 (rape), 377 (unnatural offences), 302 (murder) and 201 (causing the disappearance of evidence of offence), on June 12, 2010.

Investigations led to the arrest of a neighbour, identified as Prakash Nishad, 24, on June 13, 2010, for his alleged involvement in the crime. Police claimed to have found blood-stained tiles in Nishad’s room and his questioning led to the discovery of his blood-stained clothes and the undergarments of the girl, which he is alleged to have hidden at a flat in Vasai.

Accused first convicted in sessions court

On November 27, 2014, the sessions court convicted the accused in connection with all the offences and imposed capital punishment for murder and sentence of imprisonment for other crimes.  The verdict was upheld by the high court in October 2015.

Supreme Court points out several procedural lapses

While hearing the petition, the SC pointed out several procedural lapses and yawning gaps – like key witnesses not being cross-examined, creating a gap in the chain of circumstances, no spot map or any ocular evidence to prove the presence of the appellant at the crime scene, the lack of understanding of the language causing prejudice to the appellant, no clarity on who drew the blood samples and other tests of the appellant for DNA confirmation, the possibility of contamination due to the delay and gaps in the chain of custody of crucial medical evidence.

Noting that no reasons were given for non-compliance with the requirement of Section 53 A (examination of accused by medical practitioner) of the Criminal Procedure Code, a ‘glaring lapse’ was caused in the investigation, the SC said.

SC observes offence against minor not in dispute

Moreover, none of the relatives disclosed either the complicity of the appellant in the crime or the reason for their suspicion towards him, leading to the possibility of all hypotheses.

Having scrutinised the material on record, the court said the very basis of the appellant being a suspect in the first instance remained a mystery, as persons who may have shed light on this essential aspect were not examined by the prosecution.

The SC bench, comprising Justices B R Gavai, Vikram Nath and Sanjay Karol, set aside the order of conviction passed by the trial court and Bombay High Court, while directing that the appellant be set at liberty, if not required in any other case. 

The SC said the offence against the innocent child was not in dispute and could not be deprecated enough even in the most severe terms.  “However, the circumstances forming the chain of commission of do not point conclusively to the appellant in a manner that he may be punished for the same much less, with the sentence of being put to death,” the bench said.

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