An Uttar Pradesh man who spent 20 years in prison over a rape case before being pronounced innocent by the Allahabad High Court in January this year, walked of Agra Central Jail on Wednesday evening.
Vishnu Tiwari, now 43 years old, will now go home - a village in UP's Lalitpur district.
Mr Tiwari was arrested on September 16, 2000, and booked for rape and atrocities under the SC/ST Act. Three years later he was convicted of rape by a Lalitpur court and sentenced to 10 years' rigorous imprisonment. He was further convicted under the SC/ST Act and sentenced to life imprisonment.
All sentences were to run concurrently, as per the directions of the trial court.
He had been accused of rape by a woman from his village; she said Mr Tiwari had assaulted her as she was going from her home to work in the fields.
Visuals from Agra Central Jail this evening showed Mr Tiwari walking out of the prison gates with his release order in hand.
No one came to receive him, but he told the media he intended to take an overnight bus home.
"I have been in jail for 20 years... what should I look forward to? My body is broken and so is my family. I only have a younger brother. I am not married. Look at my hands... there are blisters from working in the jail kitchen," Mr Tiwari told NDTV in an interview.
"Today, before leaving, I got Rs 600 from the jail administration. That is all I have," he added.
In January, as it acquitted Mr Tiwari, the Allahabad High Court observed: "The medical evidence should show some semblance of forcible intercourse, even if we go as per the version of the prosecutrix - that the accused had gagged her mouth for ten minutes and had thrashed her on ground. There would have been some injuries to a fully-grown lady..."
"In our finding, the medical evidence goes to show that the doctor did not find any sperm. The doctor categorically opined that no signs of forcible sexual intercourse were found. This was also based on the finding that there were no internal injuries on the lady..." the court added.
The court also said "factual data also goes to show that there are several contradictions in the examination-in-chief, as well as cross-examination of all three witnesses".
"In view of the facts and evidence on record, we are convinced that the accused has been wrongly convicted. Hence the judgment and order impugned is reversed and the accused is acquitted," the court declared.
The court also made strong observations on Mr Tiwari remaining in prison for an extended period pending appeal, and referred to sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to stress that the centre and state had "a duty to commute the sentences as mentioned".
"We are pained to mention that even after 14 years of incarceration, the State did not think of exercising its power for commutation of sentence of life imprisonment of the present accused. His case should have been considered but has not been considered," the court said.
"The factual scenario in the present case would show that had the Government thought of taking up the case of the accused, as per the jail manual, it would have been found that the case was not so grave that it could not have been considered for remission/commutation," the court stressed.