Gangrape verdict today, 20 of 23 cases in same court ended in acquittals

India on 13 September 2013
Location : New Delhi, India | Source : Indian Express. Image Source: Indian Express

On Friday afternoon, Additional Sessions Judge Yogesh Khanna will sentence the four men he found guilty in the December 16 gangrape case, bringing to an end a fast-track trial closely followed across the country. Of the 23 rape cases Khanna heard this year at the Saket court, this is only the third to result in conviction. In 20 cases, the accused were let off, mainly because the evidence against them was not so strong.
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In the December 16 case, which sparked nationwide outrage after a 23-year-old woman was assaulted on board a moving bus and died 13 days later in a Singapore hospital, the police moved quickly. The prosecution put together strong scientific evidence, including multiple DNA evidence, odontology report and earth sampling tools to tilt the scales in their favour.

Delhi gangrape: Sequence of events

"We don't get such strong scientific evidence in other cases," A T Ansari, public prosecutor in the fast-track court, said as he explained why 20 of the 23 cases decided by the same court had ended in acquittals.

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There are examples:

* In July 2011, a hearing-and-speech impaired girl was raped and became pregnant. There was positive DNA evidence against the accused but he was given "the benefit of doubt" after the victim turned hostile in court.

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* In July 2012, a school teacher and mother of two was raped, allegedly by her husband's friend. The accused was acquitted when the woman retracted the statement given to police and said she was under pressure.

* In December 2012, a 23-year-old woman alleged rape by her neighbour. But when the matter came for trial, she did not show up in court. She could not be traced and this led to the acquittal of the accused. There were other instances of the victim being "untraceable" after registration of the FIR. All resulted in acquittals.

* In three cases, the victims refused to identify the accused in court.

According to Ansari, in the absence of scientific proof, the word of the victim is the fulcrum of a rape trial. "But in almost all of these cases, the victim turns hostile... and there are no safeguards to prevent this," he said.

Sub-Inspector Pratibha Sharma, who conducted the investigation into the December 16 case, said: "After the victim has given her statement to police, we look into possible threats to the victim and her security... but beyond that, we can't do anything if she backs out of her statement."

Sharma also investigated an incident in Mehrauli where a 40-year-old woman was gangraped in a moving car by three men. The accused were sentenced to 10-year-imprisonment by the fast track court on September 7, three days before the conviction in the December 16 case. That incident had taken place in February 2011. The court convicted them on July 29 this year but the victim died before the verdict.

Describing the December 16 case as the "most brutal" crime he has witnessed in his 15-year legal career, Ansari hopes to use the trial experience in the other cases due to come up in the court. Among them is one of a housewife who was gangraped and killed near the Jawahar Lal Nehru stadium and her body dumped near a Metro pillar at Nehru Place.

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