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Even as growing incidents of rape in Haryana have sparked a public outrage against the state government’s apathy, the Supreme Court on Friday asked the subordinate courts not to leave a rape accused scot-free on flimsy grounds.

A bench headed by Justice P Sathasivam reversed a Uttar Pradesh high court order acquitting a man of raping and murdering an 11-year-old girl and said courts must be cautious in appreciating evidence in rape cases. The accused was let-off due to variance in the witnesses’ statement given to the police and then later to the court. Observing that the “primary concern at national and international level was about the devastating increase in rape cases”, the bench said the accused should not get relief on mere technical grounds.

“Although the statutory provisions provide strict penal action against such offenders, it is for the courts to ultimately decide whether such incident has occurred or not….In the instant case, the accused had committed rape, which repels against moral conscience as he chose a girl of 11 years to satisfy his lust and subsequently murdered her,” the bench said, sentencing him to life imprisonment.

It held the HC’s analysis and conclusion was contrary to the acceptable material placed by the prosecution. But the SC refrained from sending the accused to gallows on the ground the incident was a decade old.

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