The Delhi High Court Thursday acquitted a man of the rape and murder of an 82-year-old widow over four years ago, saying medical and forensic evidence rules out that woman was subjected to “sexual assault”. A bench of Justice S Muralidhar and Justice Vinod Goel let off domestic help Neeraj Safi (23) of charges pressed under IPC sections 302 (murder), 375 (rape) and 201 (destruction of evidence).
It also set aside a trial court’s conviction and jail term, which had awarded him life-term for raping and killing the woman at her Greater Kailash-II house on July 7, 2014. It observed, “This is a case where nothing belonging to the deceased was in fact stolen. Her house was not touched. She was found in a burnt condition on the first floor of the building, in the flat gifted by her to her daughter. The trial court seeks to explain the motive for commission of the crime as being the sexual urge of the appellant (Safi) and nothing else.”
“With medical and forensic evidence ruling out the possibility of the appellant having committed the physical sexual assault on the deceased, the prosecution has failed to prove the motive for a crime,” it added. The bench, however, dubbed the crime as “horrific” and said that an elderly woman had been killed in the most “inhuman manner”.
“The evidence placed on record by the prosecution, however, has failed to prove that it is the appellant who is responsible for the crime. Howsoever strong a suspicion might be, it cannot constitute proof and is insufficient to return a finding of guilt. The case against the appellant had to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecution has failed to do that in the present case,” the court concluded in its 83-page judgment.
Police, in its chargesheet, had said that Safi had raped the woman before strangling her with her ‘chunni’ and then set her body on fire using kerosene. The old woman had been living alone after her husband died in 2005. On January 31, 2017, the trial court held him guilty. Safi had claimed that he has not committed any crime as alleged by the police.
The high court, found that “in a case of circumstantial evidence, every link in the chain of circumstances has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt and those proved circumstances forming a complete chain must unmistakably point to the guilt of the accused and no one else. That high threshold is not met in the present case.”