Supreme Court Exonerates Rape & Murder Accused Highlighting Investigation Gaps

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has overturned the conviction and death penalty of a man accused of raping and murdering a six-year-old girl in 2010.

The court cited significant lapses in the investigation conducted by the Maharashtra Police, stating that these shortcomings compromised the pursuit of justice for such a heinous crime. A bench led by Justice B.R. Gavai delivered the verdict on the accused’s appeals against the October 2015 judgment of the Bombay High Court, which had upheld the conviction and death sentence. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the appeals, quashing the conviction and directing the immediate release of the accused, unless required in another case.

The bench, comprising Justices Vikram Nath and Sanjay Karol, acknowledged the tragic incident that occurred, resulting in the terrifying destruction and loss of a promising future for a six-year-old child. However, the court noted numerous gaps in the chain of circumstances, undermining the establishment of the appellant’s guilt. The court observed that while an FIR was lodged in June 2010 in Thane, Maharashtra, the trial court had convicted the accused in November 2014, imposing the death penalty for the murder offense.

The Supreme Court emphasized that the parents of the victim had suffered an irreparable loss. It acknowledged the painful reality but concluded that the prosecution had not taken all necessary measures within the confines of the law to prove the guilt of the appellant and no one else in the crime. The prosecution’s case primarily relied on the appellant’s confessional statement, leading to the recovery of incriminating evidence and scientific analysis establishing his guilt, with the DNA analysis report being crucial.

The bench recognized the presence of DNA evidence, but it raised concerns about its reliability, particularly due to the lack of establishment regarding the untampered nature of the evidence. Moreover, the court found that substantial evidence, apart from the DNA analysis report, was almost entirely absent. The bench found the frequent changes of investigation officers to be surprising and unexplained.

The court highlighted unexplained delays in sending samples for analysis, the failure to read and explain the alleged disclosure statement to the appellant in his vernacular language, and the mysterious basis for considering him a suspect in the first place. The multitude of lapses in the investigation compromised the pursuit of justice for such a barbaric act, according to the bench.

The Supreme Court acknowledged the unquestionably evil and wrongful nature of the crime committed against the minor child, independent of the legal prohibition. It stressed that investigating authorities have a legal and moral duty to protect citizens and conduct fair investigations into crimes that impact society. In this case, the court believed that the authorities had an obligation to take all necessary steps within the boundaries of the law to hold the perpetrators accountable.

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