New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said the "devastating" increase in the incidents of rape and crime against women is a matter of prime concern both nationally and internationally.
"The primary concern both at national and international level is about the devastating increase in rape cases and cases relating to crime against women in the world. India is no exception to it," said a bench of Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
Pronouncing the judgment which accepted an appeal by Uttar Pradesh government against acquittal of Munesh accused of raping an 11-year-old girl and murdering her, Justice Sathasivan said: "Although the statutory provisions provide strict penal action against such offenders, it is for the Courts to ultimately decide whether such incident has occurred or not."
"The Courts", the judgment said, "should be more cautious in appreciating the evidence and the accused should not be left scot-free merely on flimsy grounds."
The Uttar Pradesh government had challenged the October 16, 2003, order of Allahabad High Court by which it had acquitted Munesh. The trial court had on February 15, 2003, pronounced its order awarding him death sentence. The incident of murder had taken place on March 05, 2002 in Khurja Nagar in Bulandshahr.
Sentencing Munesh to life term, the apex court said that in the instant case, the accused had committed rape, which repels against moral conscience as he chose a girl of 11 years to satisfy his lust and subsequently murdered her.
In the light of the acceptable materials in the form of oral and documentary evidence led in by the prosecution, particularly, the independent eye-witnesses coupled with the evidence of the doctor, the court said: "We accept the conclusion of the trial court and disagree with the conclusion of the High Court."
Assailing the High Court acquitting the accused, the judgment said the analysis and the ultimate conclusion of the High Court is contrary to the acceptable and reliable material placed by the prosecution.
The court held that Munesh had first committed the offence of rape and then murdered the deceased. "We are satisfied that the prosecution has established both the charges."
Setting aside the acquittal of Munesh, the apex court said that given the fact that the incident occurred in 2002, "we feel that rigorous imprisonment for life would meet the ends of justice".