Holding that the victim’s dying declaration can only be used as evidence relating to cause of death, and not her rape, the Pune Sessions court cleared a man of rape charges levelled against him by a minor four years back.
Judge Prachi Kulkarni, in her judgement pronounced on June 15, stated, “Whatever the case made out on record against the accused by the victim is in the form of dying declaration. But, we cannot place reliance on such a dying declaration.” The judge relied on a Supreme Court ruling, which stated that dying declarations could only be used as evidence relating to the cause of death, and nothing else. The judge also said it was possible that the declaration had been fabricated by the police to frame the accused.
Rape, lies and murder
As per the judgement (a copy of which is available with MiD DAY) Priya Patil (name changed) was introduced to Andheri resident Rahul Usman Shaikh alias Rashid (49), the accused, by her friend Rupali Rajesh Agarwal alias Rani, who told her that Rahul would provide her with a job.
According to her dying declarations, recorded on June 26 and June 28, 2008, she stated that she met Rahul at a government guesthouse outside Pune railway station on June 19, 2008. Here Rahul allegedly plied her with alcohol, raped her and performed unnatural sexual acts. While Rahul slept, Priya stole his mobile and wallet containing Rs 1,000 and fled to Vadgaon Dhayari.
At Vadgaon Dhayari, which is about half an hour away from Pune station, she gave the mobile to her friend, Pramod, and the money to her brother. The next day, Rani managed to catch her, and took her to Sagar Hotel, Pune City, where Rahul was waiting for her. A livid Rahul abused her and demanded she return the Rs 70,000, which she had stolen from him.
She then called her friend who gave back the mobile, but she was unable to return the Rs 70,000. Rahul is then alleged to have taken her to a hotel room and raped her again. She left the hotel with Rani, who allegedly threatened to set her on fire.
On June 26, 2008, Rani and her husband Rajesh set her on fire after pouring kerosene on her. They then admitted her to Sassoon Hospital at about 8.35 am, where they told doctors that Priya got burnt accidentally, while preparing tea. She had suffered 75 per cent burn injuries and died on July 1, 2008.
On a request from Rahul’s lawyers, his case, under Sections 376 (rape) and 377 (unnatural sex) of the IPC was separated from the murder trial. He pleaded not guilty and claimed the police had framed him. The girl’s medical examination, conducted on June 29, 2008, concluded that there were no injury marks on her body. A vaginal examination revealed the girl was habituated to sexual intercourse.
On June 28, the doctor recorded Priya’s dying declaration between 10.30 pm and 11 pm and reached the Bhosari police station at 11.15 pm. The judge said, “Within a span of 15 minutes this witness [doctor] cannot reach Bhosari police station. So, the possibility cannot be ruled out that the dying declaration is prepared by police to involve the accused.” The prosecution also failed to produce any eyewitness reports of Priya’s presence at the guesthouse from the its staff, all of whom stated Rahul came to the guesthouse alone.