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Priyadarshani Mattoo Murder Case:

'That I know the defendant is guilty, my hands are tied. As a judge, I can only go by the evidence provided by the investigative agencies.'

These were the words of Additional Sessions Judge G P Thareja, who acquitted Santosh Kumar Singh, Delhi University law student and son of an Indian Police Service Officer, J P Singh.

He was accused of first stalking, and then raping and murdering Mattoo.

On January 23, 1996, Mattoo was strangled to death in the bedroom of her south Delhi apartment. The third year law student's body bore 19 injuries.

According to the court, Singh started stalking her in 1995. He used to phone her at odd hours and once even landed up at the hospital where her mother was admitted.

Mattoo lodged a police complaint. An apparently contrite Singh apologised. But soon he was back to his game. On request the police provided Mattoo with a personal security officer.

The 449-page judgment rejected Singh's claims that Mattoo had lodged the complaint after he refused to let her sing at a cultural fest.

The most damning piece of evidence, said the court, was the testimony of Mattoo's neighbour, who had seen Singh at the entrance of her flat shortly before the murder. Moreover, Mattoo's mother also suspected Singh's involvement.

The court also admitted that the injuries on Singh's hand on the day of the crime were fresh. Further, it said the accused was wearing a helmet at the time of the crime, which was later seized from him with its visor broken.

The court also acknowledged that Singh's father tried to influence the course of the investigation.

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The court said that on the day of the crime Singh entered Mattoo's house by claiming to want a truce and withdrawal of the complaints.

Judge Thareja said, 'Though I know he is the man who committed the crime, I acquit him, giving him the benefit of the doubt.'

Judge Thareja was particularly severe on the scientists of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, for 'suppressing the unfairness of the CBI, which was glittering like gold from the records'.

The court faulted the CBI for not following the 'official procedure'. The CBI, said the court, kept from it evidence, manufactured documentary evidence on behalf of Singh, fabricated DNA technology and did not give the fingerprints report to the court.

'Did the CBI during the trial knowingly act in this manner to favour the accused?' Judge Thareja asked.

'By acting in this manner, (the CBI) had negatively intended to help the accused and betrayed the confidence reposed in it,' the judge observed.

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