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Slamming police investigators, the Delhi High Court Thursday set aside the life term awarded to a man for the 1996 dowry death of a woman, who claimed to be his wife.

“There is no cogent proof on record to prove valid marriage between the deceased (Rajni) and the appellant (Lalit),” said the division bench of Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice S.P. Garg Thursday while quashing the sentence.

It had come on record that earlier the deceased woman was married with Ikram and her marriage with him continued for about four years. Her valid marriage with Lalit could not be proved, the court said.

“In the alleged dying declaration, the deceased has attributed motive to the appellant that he used to force her to indulge in prostitution. There is no material on record to substantiate this version of the deceased,” the court said.

Striking down the verdict of the trial court against Lalit, the judges said: “The impugned judgment and order on sentence of the trial court cannot be sustained and the same are accordingly set aside.”

The trial court convicted Lalit under penal provisions related to murder and the husband or relative of the husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.

Lalit appealed against the trial court verdict and challenged the reliability of Rajni’s dying declaration, pointing out inconsistencies in the prosecution case.

The high court judges said that Lalit was able to pinpoint a number of inconsistencies in the recording of the dying declaration of the deceased, which forced them not to believe it.

“There is considerable delay in recording the dying declaration of the deceased which has remained unexplained. The burning incident took place on the evening of June 21, 1996, at the parents’ house of the deceased. The deceased was removed to RML Hospital by the appellant himself. At that time, the deceased Rajni was conscious,” the court said.

Rajni never disclosed to the doctor preparing the medico-legal case (MLC) if Lalit had set her on fire. It was merely mentioned in the MLC that it was a case of burns, the court said.

Parents of the deceased never lodged any complaint with police attributing any motive to Lalit for setting Rajni on fire, it observed.

The bench, while pulling up police, said that the investigative officer (IO) did not make sincere effort to record the statement made by Rajni before dying. The police have presented two dying declarations, which cannot be relied upon.

“The IO did not bother even to cite parents of the deceased as witness before the court,” said the bench.


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