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HC begins hearing of acid attack convict’s death penalty confirmation

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The Bombay High Court on Monday began hearing the Maharashtra government’s plea seeking confirmation of the death sentence given to Ankur Panwar, the convict in the Preeti Rathi acid attack case.

Panwar (25) was sentenced to death by a special court, the first instance of death penalty being awarded by a court in the country in a case of acid attack.

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Rathi, a 23-year-old nurse, who was to join the Indian Navy hospital in the city, succumbed to injuries following an acid attack in May 2015 by Panwar, who was stalking her.

On May 2, 2015, as Rathi got off at Bandra Terminus here from a train coming from Delhi, Panwar flung a bottle containing sulphuric acid on her face.

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Rathi lost her vision and sustained severe injuries in the attack and died on June 1 due to multiple organ failure in the Bombay Hospital.

On Monday, Panwar argued, through his counsels, in the high court that he should not have been given the death penalty since the prosecution in the case did not have a reliable case.

He argued that while the prosecution relied mainly on the statements of eye witnesses and some relatives of the victim, it was apparent that some of these statements were incorrect and had been “tailor made” to suit the prosecution’s case.

The defence team alleged that police had also failed to take any fingerprints from the bottle which held the acid, and therefore, had no forensic evidence linking Panwar to the crime.

The arguments in the case are likely to continue on Tuesday.

As per the prosecution, Panwar, who had followed Rathi to Mumbai from Delhi on the same train, had attacked her as he was jealous of her success, and because she had rejected his marriage proposal.

Police had initially arrested one Pawan Kumar Gahalon, Rathi’s neighbour in Delhi, but he was let off as evidence against him could not be found.

The case was transferred to the Mumbai Crime Branch following an order of the Bombay High Court.

The Crime Branch arrested Panwar relying primarily on statements of eye witnesses, including those of Rathi’s father, her uncle, and two other passengers.

All four witnesses had also sustained injuries in the attack.

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