Five accused in Sheetal Chougule rape and murder case acquitted

A Dharwad Bench of the High Court of Karnataka, headed by Justice Anand Byrareddy and Justice S. Sujatha, on Tuesday acquitted all the five accused for want of strong evidence to prove their involvement in the rape and murder of Sheetal R. Chougule of Belagavi.

Public Prosecutor V.M. Bankar told The Hindu over telephone that the court acquitted all the five accused as the prosecution could not establish the case beyond reasonable doubt.

Earlier, the V Additional Sessions Court of Belgaum (now Belagavi) had held Ravindranath Ramchandra Chougule, husband of Sheetal, and four others guilty of conspiracy and murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced them to life imprisonment, while acquitting another accused Parashuram Kamble, on June 11, 2012.

Subsequently, Kanchan Anant Vanidesai, mother of Sheetal, filed a criminal appeal before the Dharwad Bench of the High Court on September 9, 2012 pleading for death penalty to the accused.

Senior advocate Ravi B. Naik contested for Ravindranath, while Bahubali A. Danawade represented the petitioner.

It was on August 13, 2007 that Sheetal was found dead in a nala on Jamboti-Kankumbi Road of Khanapur taluk.

Later, investigation suggested that Ravindranath had paid Rs. 4 lakh “supari” to a gang headed by Praveen Shintre to eliminate Sheetal as he (Ravindranath) had developed a relationship with another woman and wanted to marry her.

He is alleged to have handed over his wife to the accused, who raped and murdered her before throwing the body in the nala.

Praveen Shintre, main accused, was found killed in an alleged encounter in his hideout in Lakshminagar here on September 6, 2007.

The accused were acquitted as the prosecution could not establish the case: prosecutor

Earlier, the Sessions Court of Belagavi had held the accused guilty of conspiracy and murder

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