The high court acquitted a man of the charges of raping and murdering his sister-in-law in 1993 and reversed the judgement of a trial court which had awarded him life imprisonment for the offences.
A dead man got justice in a 25-year-old rape and murder case of a relative after his son approached the Delhi High Court to decide the matter posthumously. The high court acquitted a man of the charges of raping and murdering his sister-in-law in 1993 and reversed the judgement of a trial court which had awarded him life imprisonment for the offences. The court granted benefit of doubt to the man, who had died in April 2016, saying it was not safe to base his conviction on the dying declaration of the deceased woman who had suffered 100 per cent burn injuries. The acquittal judgement came as a breather for the family, with the high court also saying that his kin could now persuade the man’s employer, Engineers India Ltd, a public-sector undertaking under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, to reverse its decision to dismiss him from service and release his emoluments and other dues to them.
A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and I S Mehta pulled up the police for lapse in the investigation of the case and said the material available on record has been contradicted on several points. The bench also said the forensic evidence has “failed to corroborate the important aspect of the dying declaration, that is the commission of rape on the deceased by the appellant prior to her being burnt alive”. “The substantive portions of the dying declaration have not been corroborated by the other evidence that has been gathered by the prosecution. As already mentioned, the forensic evidence in fact negates the charge of rape having been committed on the deceased shortly prior to her death. “In a case of this nature, the prosecution had to make an effort to rule out the possibility that the deceased may have committed suicide,” the bench said. The case dates back to April 1993 when the police received an information that a woman had died of burns in Sagarpur area of south west Delhi after being taken to the Safdarjung Hospital by her husband. The woman’s husband had told the doctor that she was raped by her brother-in-law who had then poured kerosene oil and burnt her alive, the police had said.
The case of the prosecution, represented through prosecutor Amit Chadha in the high court, rested essentially on the dying declaration of the woman purportedly made to the investigating officer of the case. The police registered a case against the woman’s brother-in-law, for allegedly raping and murdering her. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by the trial court in March 2002. An appeal against the judgement was filed in the high court a month later. During pendency of the appeal, the man died on April 3, 2016 which was brought to the notice of the bench in January 2018. As nobody appeared for the man, the court disposed of the appeal as having abated.
However, the events took a turn when the man’s son filed an application seeking restoration of the appeal on the ground that as a result of his conviction by the trial court, he was removed from service from EIL. The son said they were six siblings and their mother was aged and mentally disturbed and if the appeal was allowed, the family would get the benefit of the emoluments and pension that would have accrued to him. The high court allowed the application in February, restored the appeal and gave a hearing to the case and acquitted the man. The bench said there were serious doubts about the manner of recording the dying declaration and whether the woman was in a state fit to make a dying declaration. As per the dying declaration, the man had asked the woman to accompany him to his house has his son was unwell. On reaching there, she found out that his son was not present and the man bolted the door of the room and raped her. When she resisted, he poured kerosene oil over her body, burnt her alive and fled.
The court, however, noted that according to the witnesses, the room’s door was bolted from inside and water was thrown into the house to douse of the fire. It said the prosecution has not been able to conclusively prove the presence of the man at the crime scene. The court said though the police found a can of kerosene oil at the crime spot, the doctor who conducted her post-mortem had not found any smell of kerosene on the scalp and hair.