Three of the four men accused of gangraping and murdering a Dalit woman in Hathras district in 2020 were acquitted of all charges by a Uttar Pradesh court on Thursday, reported ANI.

While Sandeep, the main accused person in the case, was also found not guilt of rape, he was convicted on charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code and for offences under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Those cleared of all charges are Ramu, Luv Kush and Ravi.

The four upper-caste men had allegedly raped and brutally assaulted the woman in Hathras on September 14, 2020. She died of her injuries a fortnight later in New Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital. The woman had suffered multiple fractures, a spinal injury and a deep cut on her tongue.

The case had triggered outrage after the woman was cremated in the dead of the night without the presence of her family members.

The Allahabad High Court had taken suo motu cognisance of the incident and the events leading up to the woman’s cremation. The Supreme Court too had called the incident “extraordinary and shocking” and directed the High Court to monitor the inquiry led by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The Uttar Pradesh administration has consistently denied that the woman was raped, based on a report from the forensic lab that had said there were no traces of sperm in samples taken from her.

However, the chief medical officer at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College – where the woman was admitted – had said the forensic lab’s report “holds no value” as it relied on samples taken 11 days after the crime was committed.

Experts have also pointed out that since the samples for the test were collected many days after the crime was committed, sperm would not be present.

The autopsy report of the woman had shown that she was strangled and suffered a cervical spine injury. The final diagnosis did not mention rape but had pointed out that there were tears in her genitalia and there had been “use of force”.