Chhawla gangrape, murder: SC to set up new bench to hear review plea of its acquittal verdict
The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to constitute a three-judge bench to consider Delhi Police's plea for a review of its verdict acquitting three death row convicts in the gangrape and murder of a 19-year-old girl in Delhi's Chhawla area in 2012.
One of the acquitted recently slit a person's throat, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Delhi Police, told a bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala.
"What I am saying is that all these accused who were acquitted are hardened criminals. Therefore, we are seeking review of last year's verdict," Mehta said, adding that a three-judge bench headed by then CJI U U Lalit had pronounced the verdict.
Vinod, one of the three acquitted, has been arrested for allegedly killing an auto driver in Delhi's Dwarka area last month.
In 2012, the three accused had gangraped a 19-year-old girl, murdered her and mutilated her body with a screwdriver and other weapons. The trial court awarded them the death sentence and the high court upheld it in August 2014. The apex court set aside the high court order and acquitted them of the offences in November last year.
CJI Chandrachud said the court will constitute a bench comprising himself and Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Bela M Trivedi to hear the review plea.
Mehta requested the court to accord an open court hearing on the review plea. To this, the CJI said it is up to the new bench to decide on the matter.
The fresh application was filed by M Harsha Vardhan, deputy commissioner of police of Dwarka district.
"It is important to bring forth before this court that the one of the accused Vinod after being acquitted by this court of the conviction and punishment granted to him for offences of kidnapping, gangrape and murder, has after his release, has committed murder of an innocent auto driver when the deceased resisted robbery attempt by the accused," the application said.
An FIR was registered on January 26, 2023 with the Dwarka (North) police station and Vinod arrested following the investigation.
"Commission of murder after his release indicates that the accused is a hardened criminal who has abused the benevolence of this court. The said fact assumes grave importance for adjudication of the present review petition as the act done by the accused Vinod clearly goes on to show that he was indeed a criminal minded person and is in fact a threat to the society as a whole and does not deserve any leniency whatsoever," the application said.
On December 8 last year, Delhi Police moved the top court seeking a review of its acquittal verdict, saying the offence was "diabolic in nature exhibiting grave depravity and bestiality" and fell under the "rarest of rare" category.
Several review pleas, including one filed by the teen's father, against the apex court verdict have also been filed.
While acquitting the three convicts, the Supreme Court said the law does not permit courts to punish an accused on the basis of moral conviction or on suspicion alone.
It said the prosecution failed to provide leading, cogent, clinching and clear evidence, including those related to DNA profiling and call detail records (CDRs), against the accused, and said the trial court also acted as a “passive umpire”.
The body of the 19-year-old, who worked in Cyber Hub, Gurgaon, was found three days after she was abducted. According to the prosecution, she belonged to Uttarakhand and was returning from her workplace.
When she didn't return home, her parents lodged a missing person report, the prosecution said, adding that the woman's mutilated and decomposing body was found in a village in Rewari, Haryana.
The police found multiple injuries on the body. Further investigation and autopsy revealed she was attacked with car tools, glass bottles, metal objects, and other weapons. She was also raped, police said.
Police arrested the three men allegedly involved in the crime and claimed one of them took revenge after the woman spurned his advances.
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