Rape and murder: Trial Judge remained a mute spectator, says SC

Law and Life

by G Shaheed

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Supreme Court of India | Photo: Mathrubhumi

The Supreme Court set aside the death penalty imposed on three persons who were charged for rape and murder of a 19-year-old girl indicting not only the prosecution but the trial Judge also for committing serious lapses.

The court said that the trial was totally unfair and vitiated. There is no other way but to acquit the accused for want of evidence though the crime was most dastardly and shocked the conscience of the society.

The case happened in Delhi in 2009 and was known as Chawla gang rape case. Three accused Rahul, Ravi and Vinod were found guilty and were awarded death penalty by the sessions court which was upheld by the High court. The accused then moved the SC.

The SC analysed the evidences and held that serious lapses have been committed by the police during investigation and the witness examination by the prosecution and even cross examination done by the defence counsel does not inspire confidence. The scientific evidences related to DNA tests and other things also were not satisfactory.

The trial judge shall actively participate when witnesses are examined so that it paves the way to unearth truth. The SC had rendered many decisions to that effect. But here the trial judge sat like a passive umpire which was a setback to the whole proceedings and vitiated the trial, observed SC.

The trial judge should have been diligent in exercising his onerous duties. He could have asked questions to the witnesses when they were not forthcoming in their depositions. That was not done in this case. Such a serious situation would cast doubts on the veracity of witnesses. The trial Judge went wrong, the SC seriously remarked.

The chain of circumstantial evidences were broken in many places. In effect the trial has been shabby and does not point to the guilt of the accused. In such circumstances the accused cannot be convicted for want of evidences.

It is unfortunate that the heinous crime goes unpunished. But we cannot substitute anything when prosecution miserably failed, SC said.

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