Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Madras High Court acquits three on death row; raps trial court, prosecution for lapses

The judges ordered the Tamil Nadu government to pay a compensation of Rs five lakh to the mother of the girl within three months.

Published: 03rd April 2019 06:57 PM 

MADURAI: Slamming the trial court, police and prosecution for various lapses in a rape-cum-murder case, the Madras High Court Wednesday acquitted all three accused sentenced to death and directed the police to find out if any attempt was made to shield the real culprits. A bench of justices P N Prakash and B Pughalendi said there were blatant contradictions in the depositions of the witnesses and the post-mortem report and neither the trial court nor the defence counsel paid attention to them. 

While the post-mortem report did not establish rape, the medical examination of the accused too did not reveal that they had raped the girl, the bench said recording its concern about non-availability of quality legal service to underprivileged like the accused in this case. The judges ordered the Tamil Nadu government to pay a compensation of Rs five lakh to the mother of the girl within three months. It was passing orders on appeals by two of the accused and the referred lower court judgement for confirmation of death sentence on the three accused. According to the prosecution, the minor girl of a village in Theni district was kidnapped on December 1, 2014, from her house, raped and murdered.

In October last year, the trial court sentenced to death the three, arraigned as accused by the police. In its order, the high court bench said the lapses on the part of the police were indubitably blame-worthy and not innocent. The judges said they did not go through even the case diary and the original records available in the court were enough to ferret out a can of worms. "We would have noticed a worm pit had we accessed the case diary," they said, strongly criticising the prosecution. The bench directed the Theni district superintendent of police to conduct an inquiry into the lapses noticed by the court and find out if any attempt had been made to shield the real culprits. 

The court also suggested departmental action against Inspector Rajaraman for the lapses. Dwelling on non-availability of quality legal service to the underprivileged, it said it was precisely the reason for third accused Kumaresan not filing an appeal against the death sentence though he was found to be impotent and yet charged with rape. "While the rich were able to get the best legal brains and successful criminal lawyers with the ability to suborn witnesses or protract trial, the poor are left to fend for themselves with poor quality legal service, and eventually justice becomes the biggest casualty," the bench said. This was a classic case where the accused, facing rape and murder charges were deprived of quality legal assistance, resulting in the trial court believing the prosecution.

"It is unfortunate that the defence lawyer did not even notice the destructive nature of the statement of the five witnesses, which were recorded, and did not even cross-examine the inspector," the bench said. The court suggested it was time that the Bar Council of India bestowed attention on this grey area and take effective steps to address the malady. The innocent accused had undergone trauma, it said and ordered them to be released immediately.

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