State of Maharashtra V. Ankur Panwar decided on September 2016
This was a case put up before a special Women Court judge A S Shinde who awarded death sentence for the first time to the accused Ankur Panwar as deterrent punishment in line of Bangladesh’s Acid Crime Suppression Act and stated that such acts need to be curbed by setting an example for the people.
The facts of this case are as follows:
- A 23-year-old girl Preeti Rathi lived in Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) Colony in New Delhi. She was a talented girl who wished to pursue her carrier as a nurse.
- Accused Ankur Panwar was neighbor of Preeti Rathi who had done his hotel management from an institute but was unemployed thereafter.
- Accused proposed the victim to marry him but she declined his proposal and also expressed her willingness to pursue her carrier at the moment.
- Apart from the rage the accused had developed against the victim because of her refusal of the proposal of marriage, the accused was also jealous of her success.
- The accused’s parents always used to compare him with the victim stating that she was so bright and intelligent and even had got a job but accused was still unemployed.
- The victim had got a job opportunity as a staff nurse in Colaba Naval Hospital, INS Ashwini in Mumbai. She boarded Garibrath Express and landed on Bandra Terminus where soon after deboarding the train the accused tapped on her shoulder and as she turned back someone splashed acid on her face which also affected some passer-by.
- Even though the station was overly crowded but no one could catch the accused.
- The victim accidentally swallowed the acid because of which she suffered some serious fatal injuries as well.
- She had to be admitted in the hospital immediately where she died after struggling for her life for around a month.
- During her admission whenever she gained consciousness she used to ask for her job, her younger sister’s safety and in her last statement where she could only scribble on a page and not speak at all she asked not to be admitted in any expensive hospital. All these circumstances show the struggle of the middle-class people and the women’s concerns.
- After a year from her death, the accused was arrested. He confessed that he was jealous of the victim and wanted to disfigure her and harm her and so he bought concentrated sulphuric acid from a workshop near his residence and followed the victim on the same train.
- As the victim deboarded he threw the acid on her and boarded another train departing from the station. He lied to his family that he was in Gurgaon for the purpose of a job whereby he was staying at one of his friend’s home in Gurgaon.
- This case was taken up by special Women Court before J. Anju S Shende.
Following issues were raised before the court
- Whether the laws and regulations already laid down by the Supreme Court and other authorities were not sufficient to curb the instances of acid attacks in India.
- Whether the death penalty shall be the adequate remedy in case of murder caused by an acid attack in line of Bangladesh’s Acid Crime Suppression Act and whether such legislation is required in India as well.
Judgment and decision-
The court after analyzing the facts and circumstances of the case laid down a 150 pages judgment in which it stated as follows:
- That a strong message needs to be communicated to such offenders that these crimes against women will not be tolerated at all.
- Such situation where a women had died because of the acid attack had happened for the first time in the history of India and therefore such offence needs to be curbed in the first instance itself otherwise there is a threat that such monstrous act can spread very quickly and on a large pace.
- The effect of such a heinous offence was also realised and analysed by the court in a detail and held that this crime falls under rarest of the rare cases.
- The court further observed that in the knowledge of the court there was no instance where accused committing such a crime had been sentenced. The only punishment ordered till date was compensation.
- Hence, the court felt a need to order deterrent punishment for the accused looking towards the gravity of the offence committed and in line of the Supreme Court’s current take on such cases.
- Hence, the court being fully aware of the nature of death penalties and its need in the present instances of the case held that the accused shall be sentenced till death.
- Apart from the death penalty, the court also imposed a fine of Rs. 5000 on the accused and ordered it to be paid to the parents of the victim.