The place where body of the gang rape victim in Hathras was cremated | Photo: AFP
Hathras (UP): A special court here on Thursday sentenced the main accused in the 2020 Hathras rape-murder case to life imprisonment while acquitting the three other accused.
The rape and murder charges could not be proved against the prime accused, his lawyer Munna Singh Pundir said.
The court held Sandeep (20) guilty under section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code, a lesser charge than section 302 (murder).
Ravi (35), Luv Kush (23) and Ramu (26) were acquitted in the case that triggered outrage and put Yogi Adityanath's BJP government in the dock over law and order in the state.
The court also slapped a fine of Rs 50,000 against Sandeep.
The charge sheet in the case was filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the SC/ST court here against all the four accused for murder and gang rape, and under sections of the SC/ST Act.
Lawyer Seema Kushwaha, who is representing the Dalit woman's family, said they will challenge the verdict in the high court.
Sandeep's lawyer claimed that his client is innocent. “We will appeal in the high court against the conviction," he said.
"The prosecution couldn't prove the charges of rape, gang rape and murder in the court with sufficient evidence or witnesses," he said.
The 19-year-old woman was allegedly gang-raped by four men from her village on September 14, 2020. A fortnight later, she died at a Delhi hospital.
She was cremated in the middle of the night in her village near Hathras.
Her family members claimed that the cremation, which took place well past midnight, was without their consent and they were not allowed to bring home the body one last time.
Several politicians, including Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, slammed the Adityanath government over the death and the “hurried” cremation.
There were standoffs with UP Police when the two leaders, along with other party members, headed for the victims' village. The visit took place only on the second attempt.
In another episode linked to the Hathras incident, Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan and his companions were arrested when he was on his way to the district, the move triggering another row.
The UP Police claimed that he was linked to radical organisation People's Front of India and was trying to incite violence. After two years in jail, he was recently released on bail.