Supreme Court acquits man condemned to death without a shred of evidence

Judge says he was too poor to even afford a lawyer during trial

September 29, 2022 04:04 am | Updated 04:04 am IST - NEW DELHI

The Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted a man sentenced to death on the charges of murdering and raping a six-year-old 10 years ago.

Justice V. Ramasubramanian, who authored the judgment for a three-judge Bench of Justices S. Abdul Nazeer and A.S. Bopanna, said the Uttar Pradesh Police framed the man in the case without "even a shred of evidence to prove his culpability".

The judgment registered its shock at how the sessions court and the Allahabad High Court chose to "completely overlook" the suspicious story of the prosecution side and sent an innocent man to the death row. Both the lower courts had found the man guilty of "exhibiting deviant behaviour and abnormal sexual urge", deserving the death penalty.

But Justice Ramasubramanian, on the other hand, drew attention to how the condemned man was so poor that he could not even afford a lawyer in the trial court.

"The appellant was so poor that he could not afford to engage a lawyer even in the sessions court. After his repeated requests to the court of district and sessions judge, the service of an advocate was provided as amicus. In cases of such nature, the responsibility of the court becomes more onerous," the Supreme Court observed, ordering his immediate release.

Justice Ramasubramanian said by framing an innocent man, the State has done an injustice both to him and the family of the child by not conducting a proper investigation in the case.

"We cannot shy away from the fact that it is a ghastly case of rape and murder of a six-year-old child. By not conducting the investigation properly, the prosecution has done injustice to the family of the victim. By fixing culpability upon the appellant without any shred of evidence, the prosecution has done injustice to the appellant. The court cannot make someone a victim of injustice to compensate for the injustice to the victim of a crime," Justice Ramasubramanian emphasised.

The Bench agreed with the defence side, led by senior advocate S. Nagamuthu, that there were serious defects in the police case, including a substantial delay in forwarding the FIR to the jurisdictional court and a "shocking abdication of duty" by the investigating officer who failed to produce any forensic or medical evidence in the case.

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