Ankur Panwar flashes the victory sign at the camera as he is escorted back to Arthur Road jail after the sentencing. Pic/Atul Kamble
Half an hour after the court sealed his fate by awarding him the death sentence for the fatal acid attack upon Preeti Rathi in 2013, Ankur Panwar (26) emerged from the courthouse still trying to shrug off the shock.
“I am not scared of the death sentence. I know my case and had faith in the judiciary, so I didn’t expect a death sentence,” he told the media, even as he insisted that he was not affected by the judgment.
Visibly restless, Panwar argued that he was innocent and even Preeti’s family had not been able to identify him at Bandra Terminus, where the acid attack took place. He said they had watched him grow up, and should have been able to instantly recognise him, even if he had been wearing a handkerchief across his face. “Preeti Rathi’s family knew me so well. If I had handkerchief on my face, even then her father could have easily identified me,” he said.
‘Not jealous of her’
The court had convicted him of her murder after the prosecution argued that he was upset that she had rejected his marriage proposal and that he was also jealous of her success. To this, Panwar said he had his own dreams and was not jealous of her.
“Preeti was not the only girl who was highly educated. Everyone in our area and family is well-educated. I don’t understand why I would be jealous of her getting a job when I was still studying. I was going to look for a job only after completing my education. I had plans to fly down to Canada or Singapore and settle there after completing my hotel management course. Even my senior had asked me to come there after my exams on April 27, 2013,” he claimed.
‘Family needs me’
“I am the eldest son in the family; my family has no one else to take care of them. This situation has made them weak. When I was arrested, my father, being handicapped, still came to the chowky,” he finished.
Once again, he alleged that Preeti’s death was a case of honour killing, and he had nothing to do with it. He claimed that only if the CBI takes over the case would the truth emerge. “I have realised the society outside is dirtier than people lodged in jails. If given a chance, I can guarantee that CBI inquiry will show it is a case of honour killing,” he said with tears in his eyes.
No evidence against Ankur, says his father
Ankur’s father, Narayanlal Panwar, said, “Preeti was like a daughter to us. Even we want justice for her, but convicting an innocent man will not give her justice. My son was arrested eight months after the incident. We will definitely go to the high court against this verdict and are sure that we will be heard there. This time, we will go with lots of evidence that we have collected. There are no call records pointing towards his location in Mumbai, and neither is there evidence of any love affair. There were no calls or messages between my son and Preeti.”