24 years on, Mumbai court clears man of murdering his partner | Mumbai News – Times of India

MUMBAI: Twenty-four years after a man was booked for murdering his partner, a sessions court acquitted him.
The court cleared the now 58-year-old accused as material evidence had been destroyed for being old and unimportant, key witnesses could not be traced as their illegal hutments were razed in 1997 and the then 10-year-old son of the victim, who had allegedly witnessed his mother being burned alive, could not recall any details as decades had passed.
The accused, Nitin Raut, absconded soon after the incident and was traced only in 2018. The 30-year-old victim, Suman Chaudhari, a single mother of two, was living in with the accused.
While the victim’s mother died in 2001, her sister, another eyewitness, suffered a paralytic stroke in January 2019 and could not depose.
Chaudhari had given a “dying declaration”. However, while two retired cops who had taken it, deposed, the medical officer who had certified that the victim was conscious and in a fit state of mind to give the statement, could not be traced. The court said that to prove the dying declaration, it was just and proper to have additional corroborative material.
“Though this court has sympathy for the victim, it holds that the evidence available is inadequate to infer whether the burning was accidental or homicidal and whether the accused had committed such culpable act against her with an intention to kill her…,” the court said.
On the night of May 21, 1996, Chaudhari was brought to Bhagwati Hospital, Borivali (W). It was the prosecution’s case that the victim informed the police she had left her husband a decade earlier as he was an alcoholic and used to harass her. A resident of Kandivali (E), she said she was in a relationship with the accused for about eight months. She said that while he used to pay for her expenses, he forbid her from working as a domestic help.
The victim also said that the accused too had started drinking. On the day of the incident, she alleged the accused came home drunk around 8pm and they had an altercation. The victim alleged that during the fight, the accused threatened to pour kerosene and set her on fire. She said when she dared the accused, he picked the kerosene can and emptied it on her. The victim further alleged that the accused then set fire to her night dress. She said that when she began to scream, the accused took a bedsheet and tried to douse the fire.
The victim said that on hearing her screams, her son started crying aloud and the neighbours, including her sister, came rushing home. She suffered burn injuries all over her body. She said that her sister immediately changed her clothes and forced the accused to rush her to hospital. The woman, however, died as she had suffered 78% burn injuries.
The accused fled from the hospital, but was arrested on June 7, 1996. In April 1997, he was granted bail and remained at large for the next two decades. In his final statement taken via video conferencing, the accused denied he had set her on fire.

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