[Gang Rape] Baffling and mysterious as to why police did not collect CDR of victim; Delhi High Court acquits accused due to insufficient evidence

Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court: A criminal appeal was filed challenging the conviction for offences under Sections 328, 366, 342, 34 and Section 376D Penal Code, 1860 on grounds of insufficient evidence and flaws in the investigation process, including discrepancies in witness testimony and failure to collect crucial evidence such as the victim’s call details record. A division bench of Suresh Kumar Kait and Manoj Jain, JJ., held that there was insufficient evidence to prove the prosecution’s case beyond a reasonable doubt and consequently, the appeal was allowed, and all the accused persons were acquitted of the charges.

On 29-07-2018, the police received information about a girl, ‘G,’ who claimed to have escaped from four individuals who had allegedly kidnapped and raped her. ‘G’ narrated that she had been abducted while on her way to a temple and later found herself in a room with the appellants, where she was sexually assaulted. Following her complaint, the police arrested the accused from their village in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. Four appellants were convicted under various Sections of IPC and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for life with a fine. The conviction was based on allegations of kidnapping and sexual assault of the prosecutrix (‘G’). However, the appellants challenged the judgment on multiple grounds, primarily emphasizing the lack of evidence supporting the prosecution’s claims.

Counsel for appellants asserted that there was no substantial evidence supporting the prosecution’s claims. ‘G’ and her parents did not support the prosecution’s case, and their testimonies contradicted the initial complaint. The defense highlighted flaws in the investigation, such as the failure to collect crucial evidence like the Call Detail Records (CDRs) of ‘G’s mobile phone and discrepancies in the handling of exhibits collected for forensic analysis. The defense questioned the reliability of the DNA report, which was heavily relied upon by the Trial Court, as it was not even presented to the accused during the trial.

The Court meticulously examined the evidence and found significant discrepancies in the prosecution’s case. ‘G’ and her parents’ testimonies failed to corroborate the allegations of abduction and sexual assault. Moreover, the investigation was deemed inadequate due to the omission of crucial evidence like CDRs and discrepancies in exhibit handling. The Court also raised concerns about the DNA report’s validity, highlighting procedural irregularities and the failure to present it to the accused during trial. Additionally, the Court noted that even if the DNA matched, it did not automatically indicate sexual assault, considering ‘G’ was a major at the time of the incident.

The Court remarked that “we are of the view that there was not enough material on record to prove the case of prosecution. No incriminating word has been whispered by ‘G’ and her parents. Investigation is also not upto the mark as neither PCR form nor CDR of mobile of ‘G’ were placed on record. Keeping in mind the fact that ‘G’ was major at the relevant time, DNA report, which was not even put to the accused under Section 313 CrPC., does not carry any value.”

Thus, the Court held that the prosecution failed to establish the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt due to various inconsistencies and deficiencies in the evidence presented. ‘G’ and her parents did not support the prosecution’s case, and the investigation lacked crucial evidence. The reliance on the DNA report without proper procedural adherence further undermined the prosecution’s case. As a result, the appeal was allowed, and the accused were acquitted of all charges.

[Pawan Sharma v. State NCT of Delhi, 2024 SCC OnLine Del 2273, decided on 01-04-2024]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For the petitioner: Dr. Harshvir Pratap Sharma, Senior Advocate with Ms. Stuti Jain, Mr. Akshu Jain, Mr. Akul Krishnan and Mr. Amit Kumar,

Advocates For the Respondents: Ms. Manjeet Arya, APP for State with W/SI Koyal Devi and SI Manoj Kumar

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