Man wrongly convicted for rape, jailed for 6 years takes one more shot at justice
Getting no recourse from the law or the high court, 42-year-old man unjustly convicted for rape files writ petition. He lost his home, family and reputation, and now he hopes the high court will hold the State responsible for his rehabilitation
What's in a name? When the police got Gopal Shete's name wrong, it resulted in him being unjustly arrested for rape and jailed for six years. Although the Bombay High Court acquitted him in 2015, the police had already ruined his name and life. He lost his wife and children, his father died of a heart attack, and his mother became mentally unstable.
Nine years later, Shete, 42, has moved the high court once again with a writ petition seeking the state's assistance for his rehabilitation. The case will come up for hearing this week, when the HC will review the case as per the new recommendations made by Law Commission of India this year. The Commission recommended that in cases where the police and prosecution wrong a citizen, redressal is the State's liability.
On July 29, 2009, Shete was working in the kitchen of a well-known hotel in Ghatkopar, where he earned a salary of Rs 46,000. The Kurla Government Railway Police (GRP) came and picked him up for a rape case.
According to the 21-year-old survivor's statement, the crime took place on July 19, 2009, when she was apprehended by a man who introduced himself as Gopi. He forced himself on her and then, around 4.30 am, took her to Rajawadi hospital and escaped.
"The cops dragged me to the police station and made me the accused, writing my name as Gopal Shete alias Gopi, a name I had never heard before. All this because the police could not nab the real culprit," alleged Shete. "I lost everything. Soon after my arrest, my wife left me and my two daughters, who were forced to live in an orphanage in Andheri. On the day the court pronounced me guilty, my father, Ramdas, a farmer from Nagpur, died of a heart attack, and my mother Panchkula lost her mental balance. She is currently undergoing psychiatric treatment," said Shete.
Far from pulling up the errant cops, the State had challenge his acquittal in the Supreme Court in 2017, but even the apex court ruled in Shete's favour, raising questions about the investigation. After his acquittal, Shete went on a hunger strike at Azad Maidan, and also sued for compensation, but his petition was rejected last year. "My daughters are 15 and 13 years old today, and they continue to live in the orphanage, since as I have no home and am myself on the streets. I hope the high court will hold the state responsible and get me rehabilitated," said the worried father.
Advocate Rajeshwar Panchal, representing Shete, said, "There is absolutely no material to indicate that the appellant was also known as Gopi, and there is no evidence to this effect." Panchal added, "The high court had also observed serious lapses on the Kurla GRP's part. According to the Investigating Officer, the petitioner was arrested on the basis of CCTV images. But the IO withheld the footage during the trial. The court further observed that no serious efforts were undertaken to find out the truth or collect evidence."
Law Commission says
"Article 21 of the Constitution provides protection of life and personal liberty of citizens. The infringement of a fundamental right due to police and prosecution misconduct invokes state liability," stated Dr Justice B S Chauhan, former Supreme Court judge and chairman of the Law Commission of India, wrote to Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on August 30, 2018 (mid-day has a copy).
The subject of the letter was the Commission Report no 277, titled 'Wrongful Prosecution (Miscarriage of Justice), highlighted the need for a legislative framework to provide relief to victims of wrongful prosecution.
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