Four youths accused of kidnapping and killing teenager Adnan Patrawala in Mumbai in 2007 were on Monday acquitted by a local court on account of lack of evidence, a verdict dubbed by the victim's family as "shocking".
The sessions court let off Sujit Nair, Ayush Bhat, Rajeev Dharaiya and Amit Kausha -- aged between 25 and 31 -- as the prosecution failed to prove the charges against them. The fifth accused, a juvenile, is being tried by the Juvenile Justice Board.
The prosecution's case was that Adnan, son of a businessman in suburban Andheri, was allegedly kidnapped by these five "friends" on August 19, 2007, after he went to meet them in Inorbit Mall in Malad in his father's Skoda car.
The five, who had befriended Patrawala through a social networking site, then asked the victim to drive with them to suburban Kandivli. They allegedly spiked a drink he was made to have. They strangled the 16-year-old to death in Navi Mumbai after their plan to extort Rs 2 crore as ransom went awry as news of the kidnapping had broken on TV and the police launched a manhunt for them, it said.
Subsequently, Patrawala's body was found in his car on Palm Beach Road in Vashi.
Charges of kidnap, murder, extortion and destruction of evidence were framed against all the youths in June 2009.
Outside the court, defence lawyer Ashish Chavan said the prosecution "miserably" failed to prove the charges.
"The prosecution claimed that all the accused conspired and committed the crime with a clear intention. One witness called Dias had been produced before the court, which had completely disbelieved his statement. Moreover, his statement has gone against the prosecution," he said.
Special Public Prosecutor in the case Ujjwal Nikam was not present in the court during the judgement. He was also not available for comment.
Responding to a query, Chavan said Patrawala was killed but not by these five. "This raises a very serious question, as to who are the real murderers?"
The prosecution had produced another witness, who had claimed to have last seen the victim with the five, but his statements were also disregarded by the court, which said they do not inspire confidence.
"The court also commented on the identification parade, saying this does not inspire confidence and there is no strong evidence against the accused," Chavan said.
The prosecution failed to establish the conspiracy theory which is like the backbone for a case. The entire case was based on circumstantial evidence, the defence stated.
The ransom theory was also not accepted as no phone calls were presented before the court by the investigators, Chavan, said adding, "this verdict will certainly have a bearing on the trial of the fifth accused."
Adnan's family was shocked by the judgement.
"It is a shocking verdict. My son was betrayed by the acquitted five. We will not give up and appeal in a higher court," said his father Aslam Patrawala.
However, he did not blame the police and prosecution for failing to secure conviction, saying they had done their best to prove the charges. "I am yet to speak to police or the prosecution with regards to the verdict.
Arun Bhat, father of Ayush, said his son was falsely implicated. "I am very relieved and my faith in the judiciary has been restored."
"We are relieved and we want to go home as soon as possible," acquitted youths Dharaiya and Kaushal told reporters outside the court.
Adnan's mother Lubna alleged that money might have exchanged hands to produce wrong witnesses and evidence in support of the accused because of which such verdict has come.
Describing the judgement as "wrong", she stated, "When the accused had confessed of the crime saying they had killed my son, then why the verdict has come like this. Isn't it enough to convict them when they themselves had given statements about killing my son. Now they are roaming freely, No justice has been done."
Meanwhile, Additional Police Commissioner (West) Vishwas Nagare Patil refused to comment on the verdict of the case which was investigated by the city's Oshiwara police. Another official said they would talk on the issue only after going through the copy of the judgement.
Image: File picture of Adnan Patrawala
Click here for more Realtime News on Adnan Patrawala case!