‘No Way We Could Hold Them Guilty’: Ex-CJI UU Lalit on Chhawla Rape Acquittals

Amid the criticism on social media over the acquittal of three men facing a death penalty in the 2012 Chhawla gang rape case, former Chief Justice of India (CJI) UU Lalit defended the Supreme Court judgment. In an exclusive interview with News18, Lalit said that it was a “difficult fact situation”, and according to it “the guilt of the persons was not established”.

“It is a difficult fact situation where according to us the guilt of the persons was not established. If the guilt of the persons was not established means that there was no way we could give them death sentence. There was no way we could hold them guilty, and that is the reason why we acquitted them. Therefore, it depends on the actual situation; depends on what is presented there before you as a case study,” the former CJI said.

Called Uttarakhand’s ‘Nirbhaya’, the trial of the rape and brutal murder of a 19-year-old victim had many lapses, the apex court had earlier stated. Out of the total 49 witnesses examined by the prosecution, 10 material witnesses among them were girls who ostensibly saw the victim getting kidnapped in a car, but they were not cross-examined by the defense counsel.

The court also observed that in various decisions it had repeatedly observed that the judge is supposed to take active participation in the trial and question witnesses, but in the present case the judges in lower courts played the role of ‘passive umpires’.

The SC, thus, observed that the lack of cross-examination of the key witnesses and the judge playing the role of passive umpire, the accused were deprived of the rights to have a fair trial.

The SC decision stated that the prosecution was not able to prove the evidences with relation to the arrest of the accused, their identification, discoveries and recoveries of incriminating articles, medical and scientific evidence, the report of DNA profiling and evidences with regard to the CDRs .

The Court also observed that the police did not conduct an identification parade of the accused during the course of investigation, nor were the accused identified by the witness during deposition.

The bench further observed that the prosecution had also failed at pointing out the guilt of the accused and due to the lack of clear and cogent evidences the conviction could not be sustained.

“The prosecution has to bring home the charges leveled against them beyond reasonable doubt, which the prosecution has failed to do in the instant case, consequently, the Court is left with no alternative but to acquit the accused,” the apex court said.

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