SC to set up bench for Chhawla review plea | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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SC to set up bench for Chhawla review plea

Feb 09, 2023 12:08 AM IST

One of the accused in the Chhawla rape-murder, who were later acquitted, was arrested last week for allegedly murdering an auto-rickshaw driver on January 26 during an attempted robbery.

Delhi Police on Wednesday approached the Supreme Court seeking an expedited hearing of its review petition against the acquittal of three men in the 2012 Chhawla gang rape and murder case, stating that one of the people released by the top court in November killed an auto-rickshaw driver last week.

The solicitor general requested the CJI to consider placing the review petition before a bench of three judges
The solicitor general requested the CJI to consider placing the review petition before a bench of three judges

“This goes on to show that the accused is a hardened criminal and a threat to the society. The development makes it extremely important for this court to reconsider its judgment and grant an urgent hearing of our review petition,” solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Delhi Police and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) submitted before Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud.

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The CJI responded that he would look into listing the matter before the bench of justices S Ravindra Bhat and Bela M Trivedi – two of the three judges on the bench which, on November 7, 2022, acquitted the three men after noting that the prosecution failed in proving their guilt through “cogent and clinching evidence”.

The three accused – Rahul, Ravi Kumar and Vinod--were directed to be let off if not wanted for any other crime. One of them, Vinod, 35, was arrested on Sunday by the Delhi Police for allegedly murdering an auto-rickshaw driver on January 26 during an attempted robbery.

Mehta, on Wednesday, stressed that the incident indicated how a hardened criminal abused the benevolence of the Supreme Court and thus, the order of acquittal required an imminent re-look.

The solicitor general also requested the CJI to consider placing the review petition before a bench of three judges, pointing out that the case was previously heard by a bench of equal strength with the then CJI, justice Uday Umesh Lalit, heading it.

Accepting Mehta’s request, CJI Chandrachud said that he would constitute a three-judge bench, and head it himself, to hear the review petition. The CJI agreed to think about allowing an open court hearing of the review petition. Review petitions in the top court was usually decided in judges’ chambers through circulation, without verbal arguments.

The incident took place on February 9, 2012, when a woman de-boarded a bus with two friends at Qutub Vihar, a mere 10-minute walk away from her house at Chhawla Camp. The occupants of a red Tata Indica car waylaid and abducted her. Days later, her body was found in a field at Rodhai village in Haryana’s Rewari district, with multiple injuries and burn marks. An autopsy revealed she was attacked with car tools, glass bottles and sharp metal objects. Three alleged accused – Rahul, Ravi and Vinod – were convicted and awarded the death sentence by a city court on February 19, 2014. The Delhi high court upheld the judgment on August 26 the same year.

“It would be a crime against the society to allow those who are so inveterately depraved the freedom to wander, in fact their fellows, prey upon society, and to multiply their kind,” the high court said.

However, the top court acquitted the three, finding major chinks in the investigation and trial conducted in the case, saying: “It may be true that if the accused involved in the heinous crime go unpunished or are acquitted, a kind of agony and frustration may be caused to the society in general and to the family of the victim in particular. However, the law does not permit the courts to punish the accused on the basis of moral conviction or on suspicion alone.”

The Delhi Police filed its review petition in December last year, claiming that the evidence in the case “sufficiently” established the guilt of the accused and that the circumstantial evidence left no ground for reasonable doubt.

“The court failed to appreciate the medical and scientific evidence on record which prima facie is sufficient to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt,” said the review plea.

The Delhi Police’s petition had closely followed separate review pleas moved by the victim’s father and social worker Yogita Bhayana, contending the judgment suffered from “apparent errors”.

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