Priyadarshini Mattoo has finally got justice. The Delhi High Court on Tuesday convicted Santosh Kumar Singh of the rape and murder of Priyadarshini 10 years ago.
Delivering the verdict in a packed courtroom, a division bench of justices RS Sodhi and PK Bhasin strongly criticised the judgment of the trial court that had acquitted Santosh seven years ago for lack of evidence against him.
The prosecuting agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), is seeking death sentence for Santosh.
On December 3, 1999, Additional Sessions Judge GP Thareja had given Santosh the "benefit of doubt", although the judge said he knew the accused "was the person who committed the crime".
The high court said the trial court was wrong in doing so. "By acquitting the accused, despite being convinced that there was no doubt in the prosecution's case, the trial court has mauled justice. Its decision has shocked the conscience of the court," the bench said.
The court said it was clear that police had initially tried to sabotage the probe under the influence of Santosh's father, then an IPS officer. Some key witnesses were not examined to help the accused.
But the trial judge had "quite amazingly given a perverse judgment" even after holding all the circumstantial evidence in favour of the prosecution.
Santosh's acquittal had led to strong public reaction, and had triggered a debate on whether justice was beyond the reach of the common man.
Although the CBI — which had been pulled up for its handling of the case — filed an appeal against the verdict in the high court in 2000, the case was brought out of cold storage only this year after a sustained public campaign.
The acquittals in the Jessica Lall murder case this year added to the public uproar.