The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken suo moto cognisance of a media report that a person, now aged 43, was acquitted in a rape case twenty years after his conviction. The commission has issued notices to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh calling for report, to be submitted within 6 weeks, stating action taken against the public servants responsible in this case and steps taken for the relief and rehabilitation of the victim to compensate up to some extent for the trauma, mental agony and social stigma he has suffered during these years.
The NHRC observed that it seemed to be a case of non-application of the Section 433 CrPC by which the Sentence Review Board, under the law needs to reconsider review of the sentence awarded by the court, with a view to commute the sentence. “In many such cases there may be prisoners older than 75 years of age dying in the jails, which clearly depicts ineffectiveness of the Sentence Review Board,” said NHRC in its press release statement.
Vishnu Tiwari was pronounced innocent by the Allahabad High Court in January and walked out of Agra Central Jail on March 3. Tiwari was arrested on September 16, 2000, and booked for rape and atrocities under the SC/ST Act. Three years later he was convicted of rape by a Lalitpur court and sentenced to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment. He was further convicted under the SC/ST Act and sentenced to life imprisonment. The Allahabad High Court had acquitted him citing lack of adequate medical evidence and contradictions in the examination-in-chief, as well as cross-examination of the witnesses.
The High Court has also ordered the Law Secretary of the State of Uttar Pradesh to impress upon the District Magistrates to re-evaluate the cases for remission after fourteen years of incarceration as per mandate of Sections 432 (power to suspend or remit sentences) and 433 (power to commute sentence) of CrPC even if the appeals are pending in the High Court.
“I have been in jail for 20 years… what should I look forward to? My body is broken and so is my family. I only have a younger brother. I am not married. Look at my hands… there are blisters from working in the jail kitchen… Today, before leaving, I got ₹ 600 from the jail administration. That is all I have,” he told NDTV in an interview.
The Commission noted that his conduct in the jail was always found good, but his application for furlough was not allowed to attend the cremation of his father. He was not even allowed to attend his brother’s funeral.