A 52-year-old man who was incarcerated for allegedly raping and murdering a mentally-challenged woman in 2010, was acquitted by the Bombay high court (HC) observing that the prosecution failed to prove its case against him beyond reasonable doubt.
Ashok Nirbhawane was acquitted by a division bench of Justice PV Hardas and Justice Ajey Gadkari while hearing his appeal against the conviction.
The session court, in May 2012, had found him guilty on charges of rape and murder of a mentally-challenged woman in Chandwad village in Nashik district and sentenced him to life imprisonment. He approached the HC against the conviction through advocate Sachin Kadam.
According to additional public prosecutor Hitendra Dedhia, on December 26, 2010, the body of the victim, who was unmarried because of her mental condition, was found by her brother Sanjay at their house.
While lodging the complaint, Sanjay informed the police that a month before the incident he had seen Nirbhawane trying to force himself on his sister at their house. Sanjay had then slapped him and even informed Nirbhawane's son about the incident.
Based on Sanjay's statement, the police arrested Nirbhawane and booked him for raping and murdering the victim.
After going through the evidence, the HC observed that the prosecution has not been able to prove its case. While setting aside his conviction, the HC observed: "There is no evidence tendered by the prosecution that the accused was seen near the house of the victim at about the time when the incident was committed. The medical evidence clearly rules out that rape had been committed. Merely on the basis of the semen stain on the quilt, an inference cannot be drawn that rape had been committed on the deceased."
The judges further observed that there is no evidence to suggest in any manner that it was Nirbhawane who had committed the crime.
"The circumstances so established by the prosecution fall woefully short of completing the chain of circumstances which would unquestionably point to the guilt of the accused. In the absence of evidence on that behalf, no reliance at all can be placed on the evidence of the prosecution witness," said the HC.
The bench set aside and quashed Nirbhawane's conviction under sections 302 (murder) and 376 (rape) of IPC and his life sentence and ordered for him to be released forthwith.