Indian man dies before rape conviction quashed

NEW DELHI (AFP) - An Indian man convicted 17 years ago of the rape of his daughter has been acquitted, months after he died pleading his innocence, his lawyer said on Thursday (Dec 20).

Mr Kapil Kumar Beri was jailed in 1996 following a complaint by his daughter, who was then a minor and three months pregnant.

In 2001, on the basis of her statement, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

But in a country where cases can languish for years in administrative limbo, Mr Beri's acquittal did not come until Wednesday, 10 months after he died fighting to clear his name.

The verdict, released on Thursday, castigated investigators for relying solely on the daughter's statement.

Mr Beri, who spent five years in jail until his appeal was taken up by the Delhi High Court, had stated that his daughter had been kidnapped and raped by a boy living in their neighbourhood.

But his plea for a DNA test on the boy fell on deaf ears, the court said in the judgment seen by AFP.

"The appellant had been crying foul from day one. He had demanded, even during investigation, DNA test to be carried out," Justice R.K. Gauba said in the judgment.

"This was neither a fair probe nor a fair trial."

Mr D. Hasija, the lawyer for Mr Beri, said the verdict meant the family could now live in peace and dignity.

"When the appellant died, the prosecution tried to close the case. But the wife fought to clear her husband's name till the end," he told AFP.