Cuttack, Dec. 20: Orissa High Court today acquitted a 25-year-old man, who was awarded with death sentence in the rape and murder of a minor girl at Kandheikela in the Rengali police station limits in Jharsuguda district.
Minaketan Seth was awarded capital punishment on March 19 by the court of ad hoc additional sessions judge (fast track), Jharsuguda, for rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl.
The trial court had convicted Minaketan for raping the minor girl and killing her by strangulating at a farmland near Kandheikela on October 9, 2009. He had filed an appeal challenging the death penalty order.
“While pronounce the acquittal order in the open court today, the division bench of Justice Pradip Mohanty and Justice Debabrata Dash ordered that Minaketan Seth be set at liberty forthwith. Details of the order will be known after receipt of a copy of the judgment,” appeal petitioner’s counsel B.K. Ragada told The Telegraph.
At present, Minaketan is lodged in Sambalpur jail.
The trial court, while convicting Minaketan Seth, had observed: “Considering the totality of the circumstances it is seen that all the circumstances are sufficient to complete the circumstantial chain pointing towards the guilt of the accused in the alleged crime. Hence the accused cannot escape from his criminal liability for the charge of rape and murder.”
The high court, however, endorsed the appeal petitioner counsel’s argument that “there was no eyewitness and chain of circumstances was not completed” and “the accused cannot be convicted based upon the extra-judicial confession made by him before the witness”.
While awarding the maximum punishment of death to Minaketan, ad hoc additional sessions judge Shyan Sundar Mishra had observed: “It appears that the crime committed by the accused was not only heinous, but also committed with extreme brutality bringing this case within the purview of rarest of rare cases.”
The appeal petitioner counsel, on the other hand, had argued: “The trial court’s conviction order had relied upon extra-judicial confession made by the accused before the witness. Since extra-judicial confession is a weak piece of evidence, capital punishment should not be awarded.”