A special women’s court on Thursday awarded capital punishment to 26-year-old Ankur Lal Panwar in the 2013 acid attack case on nurse Preeti Rathi, who died of multiple organ failure after suffering deep internal injuries.
Special Judge A S Shende pronounced the death penalty for the convict, a day after prosecution sought the exemplary punishment for him saying acid attack is a crime against women and Panwar did not commit the crime on the spur of the moment but it was a pre-planned attack.
On Wednesday, Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam termed the case fit for death sentence, saying that it falls in the “rarest of the rare” category while Panwar’s lawyer Apeksha Vora had pleaded leniency for her client, citing his young age and stating that he was the sole breadwinner for his family.
“If he is given a lesser punishment and if he is released after completing the sentence, other girls would not be safe,” Nikam had submitted.
Objective of the sentencing is to deter criminals and like-minded persons from committing such crime, he had said, contending that “the court would be failing in its duty if a just and appropriate punishment was not awarded.”
Panwar is accused of murdering Delhi native Preeti Rathi in 2013 by throwing acid at her after he allegedly grew jealous of the nurse who had come to Mumbai to pursue a career in a defence hospital here.
On Tuesday, Panwar was convicted under Sections 302 (murder) and 326 B (Voluntarily throwing acid) of the IPC.
Rathi, then 24, had died of multiple organ failure after she developed severe health issues on account of swallowing the acid which Panwar threw on her on May 2, 2013 at the Bandra Railway Station.
Rathi, who had come to Mumbai join as nurse in a defence hospital, succumbed to injuries at a private hospital here on June 1, 2013.
Panwar was Rathi’s neighbour in Bhakra Beas Management Board Colony in Delhi.
Mumbai Police filed a 1332-page charge sheet against Panwar, a hotel management graduate in April 2014 and also submitted a list of 98 witnesses after he was arrested from the national capital in January.
As per the charge sheet, Panwar, threw concentrated sulfuric acid on Preeti at Bandra station, as he envied her career growth.
According to police, Rathi had secured a nursing job with the Ministry of Defence at the INHS Ashvini Hospital. Also, Panwar’s parents often told him about his failure to get a job despite completing his education and would praise Preeti, who landed the job at the Navy hospital in Colaba.
Panwar wanted to disfigure her face so as to destroy her career. He procured the acid on April 2 and boarded the same train taken by Preeti and her family to Mumbai.
After his conviction two days ago, Panwar’s mother Kailash had demanded a CBI enquiry claiming her son had been falsely implicated while Rathi’s father Amar Singh Rathi had sought death penalty for the accused.
Panwar allegedly flung the bottle of acid on Preeti when she got down from Garib Rath Express at the Bandra Terminus and took the same train back home.
The gruesome incident had set the local police on a wild goose chase as Panwar had covered his face at the time of the attack.
The Railway Police, which initially probed the case, had arrested another neighbour of Rathi, Pawankumar Gahalon, but set him free as there was no evidence against him.
Later, based on a Bombay High Court direction, the case was handed over to Mumbai Crime Branch, whose investigation led to Panwar and arrested him.