Last month on February 11, the Bombay High Court said it was anguished by the insensitive way in which the prosecution went about the trial in a rape and murder case of a minor girl. It rapped the presiding officer for failing to bring forth witnesses or evidence necessary for reaching the correct conclusion.
A Division Bench of Justices Ravindra V Ghuge and Bhalchandra U Debadwar passed the judgment on a plea by the state government seeking confirmation of the death sentence given by the special POCSO Court, Parbhani in February 2017 to Vishnu Madan Gore, a 34-year-old labourer, along with his appeal against the death sentence .
In October 2016, a minor girl went missing and her grandparents – who worked as agricultural labourers – subsequently lodged a police complaint. The cops then recovered her body from a well in the nearby villager’s field. There was a nylon string around her neck and her body was wrapped in cloth; both evidences were sent to FSL. The accused labourer was then arrested in November 2016 from another state.
The man was convicted by trial court on the basis of circumstantial evidence and eyewitness accounts. During the trial, the police informed the special court that it had recovered a nylon rope used to kill the child from the man’s home. The police also claimed to have recovered a lungi near the child’s body that allegedly belonged to the man’s father.
The police told the trial court that two witnesses had seen the child with the man. They submitted statements of labourers, who worked with the man in Karnataka, saying he was tense and silent.
Arguments by Lawyer of Accused
Sudarshan Salunke, the man’s lawyer, said the special court failed to notice missing links in the chain of circumstantial evidence. He submitted the conviction was based on assumptions and inferences and relied on uncorroborated evidence as the medical report also did not indicate that the minor was raped.
The rope and lungi were also not tested and that sniffer dogs had lost the trail when they reached the man’s village.
Bombay High Court
After noting the arguments, the bench said,
We do not find such evidence before us which would convince us that it was this accused and no other person who can be said to have committed the crime. The chain of circumstantial evidence is broken.
The court granted benefit of doubt to the man while setting aside the special court’s conviction. The court remarked,
We are indeed disturbed by the manner in which the prosecution has investigated the crime, collected evidence and conducted the trial in a most insensitive manner.
The high court also praised public prosecutor S D Ghayal for the “tremendous efforts’’ he put in to marshal facts in the appeal hearing and for death confirmation. It said,
It is unfortunate that such amount of hard work is met with ..an order of acquittal at our unfortunate hands only because ..the prosecution has not collected evidence and has not even ..taken efforts to get a result from the FSL.