The acquittal of an accused in the brutal rape and murder a 12-year-old girl near Tamil Nadu’s Dindigul has caused a massive outrage across the state, with the case reeking of shoddy investigation by the police.
The Dindigul Fast Track Mahila Court had last month acquitted accused Kirubanandam, 19, citing that the prosecution had failed to prove the case beyond doubt.
Outrage followed with majority of the barber shops and saloons staying shut across the state on October 9 in protest against the acquittal of the accused. The victim belonged to the Navidhar (a most backward caste), or the barbers’ community.
Studying the case in detail, The Federal found a shoddy investigation was largely what led to the acquittal.
On April 16, 2019, the minor girl was found dead at her house in Kollapatti village with electric wires stuffed inside her mouth and nose. Her body was found in blood-stained clothes, partially removed.
As per preliminary investigation, the police had found that Kirubanandam, the victim’s neighbour, had trespassed into her house, and raped and strangled her to death. They found he had inserted the wires into her mouth and nose to mislead the police.
Based on these findings, a case was filed under Section 302 (murder) and 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence) of Indian Penal Code and Section 5(m) read with Section 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.
However, at the time of filing the chargesheet, the police had framed charges under Sections 449 (house trespass) and 302 (murder) of IPC and Section 5(m) read with Section 6 of the POCSO Act.
According to the documents examined by The Federal, the police had dropped the charges of causing disappearance of evidence for inserting electric wires inside the victim’s mouth and nose, and stated the cause of her death to be electric shock.
This police theory was in contradiction to the autopsy report which revealed that the cause of the victim’s death was asphyxiation due to the strangulation in the neck and not due to the electric shock.
The case fell flat here, going in favour of the accused.
Even to prove the case of the prosecution, it appeared that the police had not submitted enough evidence. From the judgement, it was found they had not retrieved fingerprints from the electric wire and plug at the crime scene and compared it with the fingerprints of the accused.
“Assuming that the deceased was murdered by the accused using electric shock, the prosecution did not immediately seize the plug and wire from the scene of occurrence, and retrieved fingerprints of the accused and sent them to Regional Forensic Science Laboratory, Madurai to obtain their opinion whether it matched with that of the accused,” argued the counsel who appeared for the accused during the trial.
The Federal also confirmed that the police had not provided any report from fingerprint experts to support their charges.
The prosecution also could not prove the case beyond doubt as two crucial witnesses examined on the prosecution side turned hostile. “They were crucial witnesses as they were the ones – neighbours of the victim – who had immediately rushed to the spot on hearing her screams. But they turned hostile,” an official, who was part of the probing team, told The Federal.
Of the 34 witnesses examined by the prosecution, there was only one eye-witness who had claimed to have seen Kirubanandam coming out of the victim’s house on the day of occurrence. She had claimed to have seen him when she had gone out to attend nature’s call. The judge, however, did not believe her statement, noting that she had a toilet in her house.
On grounds that the prosecution failed to prove beyond doubt, Dindigul Fast Track Mahila Court Judge S Purushothaman acquitted the accused. However, the victim’s family has planned to appeal before the Madras High Court in another 10 days.
Meanwhile, DMK MP Kanimozhi and Congress lawmaker Jothimani, demanding justice for the victim’s family, sought the state government to appeal against the judgement before the High Court. Reacting to it, Law Minister CV Shanmugam said that he will look into the case and take a decision based on the merit of the case.