Mumbai: A special women’s court on Thursday sentenced a 25-year-old man to death for murdering a Delhi resident by hurling acid at Bandra Terminus in 2013. The sentencing comes a day after the accused Ankur Panwar was convicted by Judge AS Shende.
Both the prosecution and defence presented the arguments on quantum of sentence. While special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam sought the death sentence on the ground that the case fell in the rarest of rare category, defence advocate Apeksha Vora prayed for the minimum sentence of life, citing Panwar’s age, family background and lack of previous antecedents.
The victim, Preeti Rathi (23) had arrived in the city to join the Indian Navy as a nurse. The motive the court accepted was the fact that Panwar was upset after Preeti had spurned his marriage proposal. The court relied on witness accounts present on the spot, witnesses who saw the accused buying two kilograms of sulphuric acid and the injuries sustained by him while hurling the acid, to hold him guilty. The court also refuted the defence contention that Preeti’s death, almost a month after the incident was caused due to medical negligence.
On May 2, 2013 Preeti got off Garib Rath Express at Bandra terminus in Mumbai with her father, aunt and uncle. Moments later a masked man threw acid at her, inflicting severe burn injuries. From Narela, northwest of Delhi, it was Preeti’s maiden visit to Mumbai, where she was to join the Indian Navy as a nurse. On May 10, the police arrested a BTech student hailing from Rohtak, but later let him off for lack of evidence. Rathi died on June 1, 2013. On January 17, 2014, the crime branch arrested Panwar had been found guilty under charges of Indian Penal Code sections 302 (murder) and 326 B ( causing grievous hurt by use of acid).
On Tuesday, Preeti’s father Amar Singh Rathi and brother Hitesh was present in court for the verdict. One of the key witnesses among the 37 examined by the prosecution, Amar Singh had said he wanted the harshest punishment for Panwar. “I want him to receive the death penalty. I saw my child dying before my eyes. My daughter suffered until the end and I want him to suffer in the same manner too. She had done no wrong. A message has to be sent to the society,” he said. The septuagenarian Haryana native who is now suffering from cancer spoke fondly of his older daughter. “She was a hardworking accomplished child. Her achievements were her own and she took the initiative to educate herself. This has been a great loss to our family,” he added. He also revealed that Preeti had never complained to him about Panwar’s behaviour. Hitesh said that his sister was an inspiration to everyone in her family and even he was prodded by her father to be more like her.