In a relief to a man who was awarded life imprisonment for raping and murdering a mentally challenged woman in 2011, the Bombay High Court has set aside his conviction and punishment, observing that the prosecution has fallen “woefully short” of completing the chain of circumstances to prove his guilt.
Ashok Premaji Nirbhawane (52), a Nashik resident, was convicted by the additional sessions court for raping and killing the woman with a stone in December 2011.
The prosecution had relied on the chemical analyser’s (CA) report and statements of seven witnesses. However, Dr Sulochana Bhoy, who carried out the post-mortem examination, said during her cross-examination that the victim was not raped.
Nirbhawane’s clothes were also sent to the CA and as per its report, semen stains were found on his trouser. The stains were also found on the quilt that was recovered from the crime scene. However, the blood group of the semen stain on the quilt could ot be determined.
“Finding semen stain on the clothes of the accused, who was an adult, is by itself not an incriminating evidence and certainly is not an evidence suggestive of forcible sexual intercourse,” remarked a division bench of Justices P V Hardas and A S Gadkari.
The court pointed out that merely on the basis of semen stain being found on the quilt, an inference could be drawn that rape had been committed. “Moreover, there is no evidence whatsoever that would in any manner suggest that it was the appellant (Nirbhawane) who had committed the crime,” the bench added.
The court also found loopholes in the evidence put forward by the prosecution. “The seal placed on the clothes of the accused was a paper seal bearing the signature of the panchas (the witnesses before whom police seal articles from the crime scene). The parcels received by the chemical analyzer bore a different seal,” the court pointed out.