MUMBAI: A day after they were acquitted in the murder of Mumbai teenager Adnan Patrawala, his four friends accused in the case were released from a jail here Tuesday.
Amit Kaushal, Sujit Nair, Ayush Bhat and Rajiv Dharia walked out of the Arthur Road Central Jail in south Mumbai. The fifth accused, a minor, is being tried in a juvenile court.
Adnan, 16, was strangled to death Aug 18, 2007 allegedly by his friends. His body was found in bushes near the upscale Palm Beach Road in Vashi, Navi Mumbai.
A Mumbai sessions court Monday acquitted the four accused in the murder case after the prosecution failed to prove that they kidnapped Adnan for a ransom of Rs.2 crore.
The victim's father termed the verdict "shocking" and said he would appeal in a higher court. The state may also challenge the trial court verdict in the Bombay High Court.
Speaking to reporters after they stepped out of the prison, Bhat rued that due to his arrest in the case he could not finish his graduation studies.
"I lost my good friend and was blamed in the matter, but my parents, brother and friends gave full support in this worst phase of my life," he said.
Nair, expressing happiness over the outcome, said he had "complete faith in the law and God".
Their acquittal and subsequent release from jail came after the sessions court rejected the conspiracy theories advanced by the prosecution.
"The court has rubbished the conspiracy theories by the prosecution in this case. With the chain of circumstances not being proven in court, the case has gone in favour of the defence," defence counsel Ashish Chauhan told reporters after the verdict.
"The entire case is based on circumstantial evidence and the chain of events has not been established. It is still a death, but murder has not been proved," said Chavan.
"Very shocking, very shocking indeed. What can I say? Justice has been denied to us and I don't know why the court has given this kind of judgement. The case was very straightforward and clear," said the victim's father, Aslam Patrawala, as he vowed to go up to the Supreme Court for justice.
The prosecution claimed the accused befriended Adnan at a gaming zone in a Malad mall in north Mumbai. They interacted with him via social networking site and met at the mall following which they asked him (Adnan) to drop them at their homes close by.
Later, they allegedly kidnapped him and demanded a ransom of Rs.2 crore from his family. But as the news of his kidnapping broke, investigators contended that the accused panicked and strangled him to death before dumping his body in the bushes.
Police charged the four accused with kidnapping, murder, extortion and destruction of evidence.