The Bombay High Court on Monday began hearing the confirmation of the death sentence handed to Ankur Panwar, convicted by a trial court in an acid attack case. Panwar had allegedly thrown sulphuric acid at 23-year-old Preeti Rathi at the Bandra railway station in May 2013. She died a month later.
Rathi was on her way to the naval hospital INHS Asvini, where she had been selected to work in a nursing position as a Lieutenant. Panwar was arrested from his home in Delhi’s Narela in January 2014 by the Mumbai Police Crime Branch. Panwar was the second arrest in the case after Rathi’s neighbour Pawankumar Gahalon was arrested by the Mumbai railway police weeks after the attack but discharged in 2014 after no evidence was found to link him to the crime.
On Monday, a division bench of Justice B P Dharmadhikari and Justice Prakash Naik began hearing arguments by advocate Trideep Pais for Panwar.
Pais told the court that it was after eight and half months of the incident that Rathi’s sister-in-law alleged that Rathi had been threatened by Panwar not to go to Mumbai. Based on her statement, Panwar was arrested.
Rathi’s sister in-law, in her statement, also stated that Rathi had told her that a few days before going to Mumbai, Panwar had stopped her and asked her if she would marry him.
Rathi had refused his proposal. Pais argued that her statement was completely tailor-made and that she waited for eight months to reveal such crucial information to the police.
Pais also told the court that for Gahalon, the police did not conduct a test identification parade and that it should have been done for Panwar and Gahalon together. He also told the court that a witness on the platform of Bandra Terminus identified Panwar during the test identification parade in jail.
Pais said that there were four eyewitnesses who, in their statement, said they had seen Panwar at the spot. After he threw acid on Rathi, the scarf he was wearing came off and they saw his face, he added.