December 16 gang rape verdict: Evidence, testimony that nailed the convicts
The Supreme Court appreciated Delhi Police for its detailed investigation in the December 16, gang rape. There was only one eyewitness in the case, the victim’s friend who was present with her inside the bus when the barbaric attack took place. His statement, corroborated by strong scientific and medical evidence, nailed the accused. HT takes a look at the evidence SC discussed to conclude the four deserved no leniency.delhi Updated: Jul 19, 2017 14:56 IST
The Supreme Court appreciated Delhi Police for its detailed investigation in the December 16, gang rape. There was only one eyewitness in the case, the victim’s friend who was present with her inside the bus when the barbaric attack took place. His statement, corroborated by strong scientific and medical evidence, nailed the accused. HT takes a look at the evidence SC discussed to conclude the four deserved no leniency.
Prosecution: The convicts beat him up with the same iron rod that was inserted in the victim’s vagina. He and the victim were thrown out of the moving bus.
Defence: It said the statement was unreliable. They pointed to inconsistencies in his statement with regard to number of assailants, description of the bus and identity of accused. He was a planted witness, the defence claimed.
Court: The evidence of the witness was unimpeachable and found no merit in the defence argument. It said the statement can’t be disbelieved simply because there were certain omissions.
“The evidence of an injured witness is entitled to a greater weight and the testimony of such a witness is considered to be beyond reproach and reliable. Firm, cogent and convincing ground is required to discard the evidence of an injured witness. It is to be kept in mind that the evidentiary value of an injured witness carries great weight.”
Victim’s dying declaration
Prosecution: Three dying declarations of the victim were recorded, with the last one being in gestures. Police maintained all the three were at the victim’s instance, consistent and corroborated by medical evidence.
Defence: Dying declarations were contrived and should not be considered because they do not inspire confidence. They varied from each other, clearly revealing the inconsistencies. It was involuntary and unreliable.
Court: Held insignificant errors and were inconsequential because the prosecution produced cogent evidence to prove its case.
“The dying declaration recorded on the basis of nods and gestures is not only admissible but also possesses evidentiary value.”
Use of iron rod
Prosecution: Brutal form of rape and the act was inhumane. Iron rod was put in the victim’s vagina and the accused took out her internal organs. This caused grievous internal injuries, resulting in her death.
Defence: Fabricated story only to falsely implicate the accused. Lawyers disputed the use of iron rods claim on the ground that the victim and her friend did not mention about the use of iron rods in their first statements.
Court: Discarded the defence argument. Said the victim was rushed to the hospital in a traumatised state with grievous injuries, she was cold and clammy and had lost a lot of blood.
“A victim who has just suffered a ghastly and extremely frightening incident cannot be expected to immediately come out of the state of shock and state the finest details of the incident.”
Her subsequent dying declaration, corroborated by medical evidence, proved the accused had used iron rod. DNA profile developed from the blood stains from the rod showed it had the victim’s blood. The rod was recovered at the instance of the accused Ram Singh – who died within few months of the incident while he was lodged in Tihar jail.
Prosecution: For the police DNA profiling of the accused was the most crucial evidence to link them with the crime. Samples were lifted from the victim’s body, the complainant, accused, clothes dumped at the spot, iron rods, ashes of partly burnt clothes and the bus to establish the incident.
Defence: Challenged the DNA test and argued it cannot be treated to be accurate.
Court: Calling it a strong piece of evidence, the court said DNA analysis had cogently linked each of the accused with the victims as also with the crime scene.
“DNA profile generated from the blood-stained clothes of the accused and other articles are found consistent with the DNA profile of the victim and DNA profile of prosecution witness (complainant).”
The odontology report
Prosecution: Relied heavily on odontology test, a branch of forensic science in which dental knowledge is applied to assist the criminal justice delivery system. Bite marks lifted from the victim’s body were compared with the dental models of the suspect to establish their involvement.
Defence: Contended the whole thing was stage-managed.
Court: Found odontology report credible because of matching of bite marks with the tooth structure of the accused. Said there was no reason to view the same with any suspicion.
“The analysis showed that at least three bite marks were caused by accused Ram Singh, whereas one bite mark has been identified to have been most likely caused by accused Akshay.”
Prosecution: All four had executed a conspiracy to gang-rape and then kill the victim.
Defence: Denied the charges. Said there was no prior meeting of the accused to hatch the conspiracy.
Court: It was established the accused were associated with each other. Police proved the charges of conspiracy.
“The criminal act done in furtherance of conspiracy is established by the sequence of events and the conduct of the accused.”
Recovery of the bus and the CCTV footage
Prosecution: Provided CCTV footage to prove the bus route. The footage was taken from a hotel in Mahipalpur, which was near the crime spot.
Defence: Alleged the police had fabricated the evidence.
Court: Held the CCTV footage was not tampered with. There was no reason or justification to doubt the footage.
Personal search and statements of disclosure leading to recovery
Prosecution: Police relied on the recovery of articles such as clothes and mobile phones at the behest of the accused to link them with the crime. The mobiles of the victim and her friend were also found from their custody.
Defence: Challenged the recoveries on the ground the accused were not in custody when the alleged recoveries were made. Argued disclosure statement of the accused cannot be used as evidence against them.
Court: Relied on the police theory and said the recovery of articles belonging to the victim and her friend from the accused cannot be discarded.
“The recovery is founded on the statements of disclosure. No explanation has come on record from the accused persons explaining as to how they had got into possession of the said articles.”