In a significant judgment, the Orissa High Court on Friday acquitted a rape and murder accused of all the charges and quashed capital punishment awarded to him by a lower court.
A division bench of the High Court comprising Justice P Mohanty and Justice D Dash set aside the conviction and punishment of death sentence awarded to Minaketan Seth by Ad Hoc Additional Sessions Judge, Fast Track Court, Jharsuguda, on March 19 this year.
The bench held that there was no eye-witness to the occurrence and that the chain of circumstantial evidence was not complete.
The court further ruled that the conviction cannot stand only on the basis of extra judicial confession by the accused before the police. As per the case record, one Lalbahadur Barik of Kandheithela village under Rengali police station limits in Jharsuguda had lodged an FIR on October 9, 2009 alleging that his 15-year old daughter had gone to his agricultural field to fetch food at about 9 am. After giving him the food, she returned, but never reached home. Later in the evening, her body was found 2 km away from the village.
In the FIR, the complainant alleged that his daughter was seen by one Sudam Saha while she was on her way home from the agricultural field. Basing on the allegation, Rengali police investigated the case. In his statement, Sudam told the police that Minaketan, a fellow villager, was seen with the victim.
Subsequently, police arrested Minaketan on September 13, 2013 and filed chargesheet against him in which it was stated that Minaketan has confessed to the guilt and Sudam was shown as a witness.
Taking this as evidence, the trial court convicted Minaketan and awarded him capital punishment.