The 32-year-old man, arrested on Friday for the rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl in Shirdi on December 28, 2012, had come very close to facing the gallows in 2010 for the kidnap and murder of a minor girl in Nashik.
However, Sunil Bharat Jadhav alias Pappu Salve got reprieve from
the Bombay high court when his death sentence came up for confirmation – in fact he was completely acquitted from the case for lack of evidence. The court concluded that the prosecution case was weak and the investigation sloppy.
Salve had previously been convicted in at least one other case for rape and attempted murder. While acquitting Salve, the high court had reprimanded the lower court, the police and the public prosecutor for not conducting fair and transparent investigations and trial.
“The special public prosecutor failed to assist the trial court in ensuring that the trial was conducted in a fair, legal and transparent manner,” the court had observed.
The incident took place in 2003 in Malegaon, where Salve used to work at a video parlour. He was accused of kidnapping, murdering and then dumping the body of his employer’s young daughter in a well.
Salve had been tried along with his wife and three others, following which two were acquitted by the Nashik trial court, while his wife was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for intentionally not divulging information about an offence to the police. The other accused was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for giving false information to protect an offender.
The high court said that on the basis of the doctor’s evidence, it was difficult to ascertain the gender of the dead body. “We fail to understand why the dead body was not subjected to a DNA test, which was a sure way of determining gender. It was the only reliable way to determine the identity of the body,” the court said in 2010. “We don’t agree with these findings, which are nothing more than guesswork. In the absence of expert opinion or scientific report, the trial court could not have recorded such a finding.”
The prosecution has not yet appealed against the ruling in Supreme Court, but is likely to.
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