SC acquits three men sentenced to death for rape, murder of a 19-year-old in Delhi

It cites lack of clinching evidence and glaring lapses in the trial

November 07, 2022 05:11 pm | Updated November 08, 2022 01:55 am IST - New Delhi

Image used for representation purpose image.

Image used for representation purpose image.

The Supreme Court on Monday acquitted three men sentenced to death on charges of abduction, gangrape and murder of a 19-year-old woman in Delhi in 2012, saying lack of clinching evidence and glaring lapses in the trial leaves the court no other alternative but to let them go free.

“It may be true that if the accused involved in the heinous crime go unpunished or are acquitted, a kind of agony and frustration may be caused to the society in general and to the family of the victim in particular, however the law does not permit the courts to punish the accused on the basis of moral conviction or on suspicion alone… Every case has to be decided by the courts strictly on merits and in accordance with law without being influenced by any kind of outside moral pressures,” a three-judge Bench of Chief Justice U.U. Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat and Bela M. Trivedi observed.

The court, however, said the victim’s family members would be entitled to compensation though the accused were acquitted.

‘Rarest of rare’

The accused men were given the death penalty by the trial court in 2014, which had termed the case “rarest of rare”. The Delhi High Court had upheld the sentence.

Justice Trivedi, who wrote the judgment, said circumstantial evidence should form “so complete a chain that there should be no conclusion that, within all human probability, the crime was committed by the accused only and none else”.

However, the Bench found the prosecution case riddled with loopholes on multiple fronts, starting with the arrest of the three accused, the identity of the car in which they allegedly abducted the woman, the seizures and sealing of the articles and collection of samples, the medical and scientific evidence, the report of DNA profiling, call data records, etc.

“The prosecution has to bring home the charges levelled against them beyond reasonable doubt, which the prosecution has failed to do in the instant case, resultantly, the court is left with no alternative but to acquit the accused, though involved in a very heinous crime,” Justice Trivedi said.

The Bench said the trial court judge acted as a “passive umpire” though out of the 49 witnesses examined by the prosecution, 10 material witnesses were not cross-examined and many other important witnesses were not adequately cross-examined by the defence counsel. This lapse had affected the accused right to fair trial.

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