Kerala High Court acquits defendants in rape, murder of tribal woman case

the High Court of Kerala recently acquitted two individuals, Mani and Rajan, sentenced to life sentences for the rape and murder of a tribal woman on May 30, 2005.

A Division Bench comprising Judge K Vinod Chandran and Judge Ziyad Rahman AA observed that ‘when public opinion influences an investigation, its very course is hijacked with maddening results‘.

A tribal woman was raped and murdered in Palakkad district and the suspect was her confidant from the same community. The court observed that the community had risen up against his involvement, as a result of which the police removed him from the suspect list and pursued two other suspects from a different community with a status of upper caste. This resulted in the case being registered under the Indian Penal Code as well as the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Atrocity Prevention) Act.

The attorney general argued that their case was based on the testimony of Jungan, who allegedly “went” to a police station, claiming that he had murdered her. It was he who was last seen with the deceased. As a result, he was initially one of the suspects. However, nothing was done in the investigation to present him as an accused. He later stated that he left the deceased alone for 20 minutes, and it was then that she was raped and murdered by the accused.

He also said that he and the deceased sat by the trailhead and both drank arack. However, scientific analysis of the contents of the stomach and internal organs of the deceased did not reveal the presence of ethyl alcohol. It has also been observed that the factum of rape having been committed on the deceased person allows a reasonable inference that there were other people, one or more people involved.

The division bench pointed out that all of Jungan’s storytelling and conduct was very suspicious, especially in view of the contradictions he was specifically faced with during cross-examination. His version of the actual incident turned out to be very fragile and full of inconsistencies.

For this reason, during the acquittal of the accused, the following was observed:

We find nothing to link the accused to the crime other than the testimony of Jungan, whom we suspect, as being interested either in saving himself or in covering up the real facts. The incident happened over a decade and a half ago and that alone prevents us from ordering a further investigation, which would be futile, especially in the absence of any scientific evidence. Again, a woman is molested and murdered and the perpetrators are at large; the poor soul is not avenged. We see absolutely no other way but to acquit the accused.

Case title: Mani & Anr v. Kerala state

Click here to download the order

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