In the first death penalty in an acid attack case in Maharashtra, a special women’s court in Mumbai on Thursday awarded capital punishment to Ankur Panwar, 26, convicted in the murder of 23-year-old Preeti Rathi.
Panwar, a hotel management graduate, had thrown sulphuric acid at Rathi at the Bandra railway station in May 2013. She died about a month later.
“Having considered the mitigating and aggravating circumstances of the case, Supreme Court judgments and recent judgments on acid attack cases, you have been sentenced to death under charges of section 302 IPC (murder),” ruled Special Judge A S Shende.
Panwar was also sentenced to five years of rigorous imprisonment under Section 326B for voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid. The court set a fine of Rs 5,000 to be paid by Panwar.
The court held that the mitigating circumstances, including his young age, the possibility of reform and social condition, were not found in favour as compared to the aggravating circumstances in the case.
The court accepted the prosecution’s contention that it was a murder resulting out of Panwar’s unilateral love for Rathi. The court held that since Rathi did not reciprocate the love, Panwar decided to destroy her. The court said Panwar’s act was ‘sadist’ as submitted by the prosecution and held that he had not been able to explain the scars on his hand, which the investigators said had been caused due to spilling of acid on his hand while flinging it at Rathi.
The court held that the murder fell in the category of “rarest of rare” and observed that the scale of brutality in acid attack cases is more than that in cases of rape.
The judge held that rape is considered to destroy the soul of the victim, but she can be rehabilitated if her identity is not disclosed. However, in the case of an acid attack, the survivors have to live with their destroyed bodies.
The court observed that Rathi survived for 30 days because she didn’t know how she looked, since she had been blinded by the attack. The court further said that acid attack survivors look like “aliens”, and that their own children can be scared of them.
The court also held that the incident had larger ramifications, as it would make a girl afraid of moving around due to the possibility of anyone throwing acid on her face.
Rathi’s father, Amarsingh, who was present in court, said they were satisfied with the order. “I’m satisfied with the verdict. If the accused approaches the high court, we will ensure that he is awarded the death sentence even there as well. Preeti had told us that whoever did this to her, should be hanged,” he said.
Panwar’s family said they would file an appeal in the high court.