Setting aside the death sentence handed out by a trial court to a man for murder and life imprisonment for raping a child in January 2012, the Bombay High Court held him guilty only of destruction of evidence and ordered his release from prison as he had already served the seven years imprisonment the charge attracted.
In a case in which the police’s story of sexual assault and murder of an eight-year-old child came undone, the High Court also directed the state government to pay compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the child’s parents “for negligent investigation into death of their daughter”. The court also acquitted another man accused of destroying evidence.
The case dates back to January 1, 2012 when the girl’s father lodged a missing complaint for his daughter. A day later, he was called to the morgue to identify the body of a child he said was his daughter. The next day, he told police he had heard talk of some person “working in an advertising firm” who had killed a child and disposed the body. On January 3, the accused was arrested.
Police first filed a case of murder and destruction of evidence as the girl’s father had said an ‘abnormal incident’ had occurred in a gala (a shop unit) near his house where the body of a child was found and he suspected the accused, who worked in the shop, had disposed the body in Vile Parle near the Western Express Highway and lodged an FIR against the accused and another man, who manufactured advertising boards in the gala.
On March 30, 2012, a chargesheet was filed in the case. However, the girl’s father then filed a petition in the High Court alleging faulty investigation by police after which the High Court ordered further investigation on August 1, 2012. In their second chargesheet filed on February 4, 2013, police added sections of rape under the IPC and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO).
Relying on the postmortem report, the defence lawyer pointed out that the body was decomposed and injuries to external genital area of the deceased were found to be due to decomposition. The postmortem report does not find any injury in neck and does not show any culpable homicide at all, he argued. The defence pointed out that the child’s body was found under huge planks of wood and the child could have been crushed under them. When the accused found the body he was scared of being falsely accused of her murder and hence decided to dispose of the body.
“Going by the story of accused no. 1, Investigating Officer ought to have attempted to find out whether fall of plywood sheet/s on victim would have resulted in her death. This would have needed investigation into length, width and weight of plywood sheet and whether only one or all three plywood sheets fell on deceased. This would have also required scrutiny of a place where those sheets were stored and mode and manner in which they were placed,” Justice B P Dharmadhikari and Justice Prakash Naik observed.
The judges further stated, “Now, it is impossible to find out the truth or the real incident. But omission to conduct proper investigation despite directions of this court definitely entitles family of victim to reasonable compensation from the state government.”The government must recover the sum from the investigating agency or the officer, the court said.
The court also observed that the second accused was not present at the spot when the incident took place and his role in destroying the evidence was not proved.