Family that lost daughter can’t accept alleged rapist’s acquittal

The father wonders how the same evidence the lower court had relied on did not satisfy the High Court.

Written by Milind Ghatwai | Bhopal | Published: December 20, 2013 1:13:41 am

“When he was sentenced to death,I thought justice was done,” says the mother of a teenager murdered in Bhopal,allegedly after being raped,in September last year. “Now we will have to start all over again but I want to fight.”

The trial court sentenced Mohammed Mustafa,45 and a mechanic,to death in May. He appealed in the Madhya Pardesh High Court,which last month acquitted him,giving him the benefit of the doubt and saying there was no definite evidence “unerringly pointing out the guilt.’’

The murdered girl’s father is a constable. He continues to live in Bhopal while his wife and two children,including a 13-year-old son whose testimony the trial court had found convincing,have returned to Bihar,the family’s ancestral home.

“I don’t want my son to be harmed because he was the only witness who saw Mustafa taking my daughter in his car,” the mother told The Indian Express over the phone. The girl had gone missing on September 28 on her way to a coaching class. The following day,her brother told the mother Mustafa had given the girl a ride to the coaching class. The brother claimed he was offered Rs 50 and got down midway.

When the teenager’s body was found at Budhni Ghat,about 50 km from Bhopal,the mechanic was booked for abduction,rape and murder,leading to the sentencing. The High Court,however,was unconvinced by the brother’s testimony. It asked why he kept silent the day she went missing,and found many discrepancies in the circumstances leading to Mustafa’s arrest.

A division bench of justices A K Shrivastava and G S Solanki ruled,“We have X-rayed the testimony of the child witness… We find his evidence is shaky at several places.”

The court referred the possibility of the girl having been in a relation with the accused,based on government doctor Neelima Rathore’s testimony that she was used to sexual intercourse. “If the deceased was having an affair with the appellant and in order to satisfy lust,sexual intercourse had taken place between them,certainly appellant would not kill her,” it observed.

Angry locals had torched the garage where the alleged rape and murder took place and the administration forced by relentless public and media pressure removed the entire cluster of garages. The court raised doubts about the recovery of clothes and the car,which belonged to a customer.

It said the car could not have remained intact after the public had torched the garage,close to the ploice quarters where the girl lived.

The family cannot,however,come to terms with the acquittal. The father wonders how the same evidence the lower court had relied on did not satisfy the High Court. “If this can happen to a police constable’s daughter,imagine the plight of others,” he says.

“He should have been jailed for at least some offences if not sent to the gallows,” the mother says recalling her daughter as being her “right hand and equal to a son”.

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