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Mattoo case: Santosh Singh convicted
Onkar Singh in New Delhi
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October 17, 2006 14:29 IST
Last Updated: October 17, 2006 17:08 IST

In a landmark judgement the Delhi high court on Tuesday held advocate Santosh Kumar Singh guilty of the rape and murder of Priyadarshini Mattoo. The court upturned the judgment of the trial court and said the earlier judgment had shaken the judicial conscience.

The sessions court judge had then said, "Though I know he is the man who committed the crime, I acquit him, giving him the benefit of the doubt."

Priyadarshini Mattoo, a Delhi University law student, was staying in Vasant Kunj area when Santosh Kumar Singh, son of a senior police officer then posted in Delhi, visited her on January 23, 1996. Priyadarshini was found murdered in her house by her maid after the accused left her flat.

Justice Rajinder Singh Sodhi and Justice P K Bhasin in their order said there was strong circumstancial evidence to convict Santosh Kumar Singh under Sections 302 and 376 for murder and rape.

The court has set October 30 for hearing on the quantum of sentence, which it indicated could be death or life-term.

The court said the overall analysis of the circumstances and the unimpeachable evidence proved beyond doubt that Singh had committed the crime.

The accused, who was present in Court No. 35 in the new building, was immediately taken into custody on the directive of the court by CBI officers.

While acquitting Singh, who was a year senior to Priyadarshini in the university, earlier trial judge G P Thareja had also accused the CBI of tampering with evidence.

The CBI then filed an appeal in the high court saying the trial court had overlooked key evidence like the fact that Singh had been seen outside Priyadarshini's residence shortly before the crime. 

"It was a ghastly act. The trial court had erred. There is pitching circumstantial evidence against the accused, which proved that the victim was raped and murdered. The arguments put forth by the defence were not consistent," the judges said.

"The misery and agony of my daughter is finally over and she will now be able to rest in peace," was the reaction of Priyadarshini's father who has been waging a crusade against the injustice done to his daughter by the trial court order.

Indu Jalali, who has been spearheading the movement for justice for Priyadarshini along with several youngsters and journalists, including a leading television channel, said she was glad that justice has finally prevailed.

"If he goes to the Supreme Court, we will fight that as well. I hope this would have a snowball effect on other high profile cases as well," said a jubiliant Jalali who has been giving moral support to Priyadarshini's father.

She admitted that she was surprised by the conviction for rape. "We were sure that he would be convicted for murder, but were not so sure about the conviction for rape. I must thank the present CBI Director Vijay Shankar for monitoring the case developments even while he was abroad. I must thank the media as well for standing behind us," she said. 

Advocate Ashok Bhan, member of the Kashmir committee headed by Ram Jethamalani, said that clinching evidence came from the DNA tests that proved beyond doubt that the accused was present on the scene of crime.

With PTI Inputs

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