Life in jail for jilted suitor who burnt alive Maha woman lecturer (Ld)

A court in Maharashtra’s Wardha has sentenced, to life imprisonment, the convict in the sensational incident in which a young woman lecturer was doused with petrol and set afire by him on a road outside her college in Hinganghat town two years ago, a top law officer said on Thursday.

“The court has found the prime accused Vikesh Nagrale guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment, implying jail till death, for the offence committed two years ago,” Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam told media persons.

The Wardha court also slapped a fine of Rs 5,000 on Nagrale and declined to give any remission in the sentence for the time spent in jail as undertrial after he was arrested within hours of committing the heinous crime.

The Hinganghat Sessions Court Judge Rahul Bhagwat also slapped a fine of Rs 5,000 on the convict and has declined to give any remission in the sentence for the time spent in jail as undertrial after he was arrested within hours of committing the heinous crime.

Present in the court when the verdict was pronounced by Judge Bhagwat, the victim Ankita Pissude’s family members later said while accepting the verdict they were disappointed as they anticipated the death penalty for Nagrale.

Nikam, who had strongly argued for the death sentence, said the government will study the detailed court order before taking the next step of challenging the verdict, even as many locals, women, students, activists and supporters of the family were present outside the court in large numbers amidst tight security.

Around 7.30 a.m. on February 3, 2020, the victim Ankita, 24, was stalked by Nagrale, 27, from her home in Daroda village to her workplace, the MAK Mahila College, Hinganghat, where he committed the heinous crime in full public view, shaking the conscience of the people of Maharashtra.

Sustaining severe burns, Ankita was rushed to a nearby clinic and then to a Nagpur hospital where she succumbed on February 10 after a 7-day battle with her injuries, sparking outrage all over the state, a month before the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown was clamped in the country.

With extensive 35-40 per cent Grade III dermal burns on face, head, respiratory system, Ankita fought for 168-hours but breathed her last after her heart, lungs and kidneys collapsed.

The attacker — a married man with a minor child — was arrested hours later and subsequently charged with murder and the case was assigned to a Fast Track Court in Hinganghat with the prosecution demanding the death penalty for Nagrale.

After the investigations, the Wardha Police had filed a 426-page chargesheet, 29 witnesses were examined during 64 hearings held in the past two years of the pandemic lockdown.

Interestingly, not a single witness turned hostile during the trial and the verdict came exactly two years after Ankita’s demise (February 10, 2020), in the prosecution charge directed by SPP Nikam.

However, the sole and prime accused Nagrale denied all the allegations during the trial, including that he had attacked Ankita or set her ablaze.

The ghastly incident echoed twice in parliament and was strongly condemned by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Maha Vikas Aghadi partners, women, youth and social groups.

Protests had erupted in the Daroda village and Hinganghat town including road-blocks, spontaneous shutdowns, stone-pelting, processions and at one point, the police resorted to mild caning to control the angry people demanding the ‘Hyderabad-style’ justice to the assailant.

Holding a post-graduate degree M.Sc in Botany and hoping for a budding career in academics, Ankita was working as a part-time lecturer at the M.A.K. Mahila College in Hinganghat, but her life was cut short that fateful dawn.

The case also spurred the Maharashtra government to take up the stringent Shakti Act — on the lines of the Disha Act of Andhra Pradesh — which was passed in December 2021.

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