Death Sentence Overturned: DNA Evidence Frees Man After 11 Years in Rape-Murder Case

In a shocking turn of events in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, a man sentenced to death thrice for the rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl was acquitted after 11 years. The case took a dramatic twist when DNA evidence revealed that the semen found on the victim did not match the accused, leading to his release.

Anokhilal, a farm laborer from Khandwa, was initially sentenced to death by a special court under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act on March 4, 2013, when he was 21. The case, notable for its swift police investigation and trial within a month, resulted in the harshest punishment for the heinous crime. Despite DNA tests indicating the presence of another man’s semen, Anokhilal was sentenced to death.

The court’s decision on March 4, 2013, was based on evidence including Anokhilal being the last person seen with the girl, his hair found in the girl’s hand, and skin tissue under her fingernails. Bloodstains from the girl were also found on Anokhilal’s underwear. However, on March 19, 2024, Judge Prachi Patel of the special court found several discrepancies in the DNA report during a review petition, leading to Anokhilal’s acquittal. The judge pointed out errors in sample collection, sealing, and the report itself.

The court emphasized that the semen belonged to another individual and noted that a thorough investigation was necessary before sentencing Anokhilal, considering the DNA evidence suggested the involvement of another person in the crime. The court also dismissed the police theory that Anokhilal fleeing was a critical piece of evidence, stating that he might have returned simply to collect his wages.

The case began on January 31, 2013, when a tribal man reported his 9-year-old daughter missing. Her body was discovered the next day in the field of a local resident, Raghunath Gurjar. The postmortem revealed unnatural sex, rape, and strangulation. Anokhilal, previously convicted for unnatural sex with a minor and theft, was charged based on these past offenses.

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Despite the death sentence being upheld by the High Court on June 27, 2023, and a subsequent reaffirmation of the death penalty by a special court in August 2022, the Supreme Court called for a reconsideration of the case. The Madhya Pradesh High Court challenged the verdict in September 2023, leading to a retrial and the eventual acquittal of Anokhilal on March 19, due to the significant flaws in the DNA evidence.

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