Almost 10 years after Bollywood actor Jiah Khan was found hanging at her Mumbai residence, a special CBI court in Mumbai today acquitted her then-boyfriend Sooraj Pancholi in the case of abetment of her suicide citing "paucity of evidence".

Sooraj Pancholi (32), who was arrested in the case in June 2013 and released on bail a few weeks later, was charged under Indian Penal Code (IPC) section 306 (abetment of suicide).

Jiah's mother Rabia Khan has been contesting the prosecution's stand that this was a case of suicide and claimed that her daughter was killed.

Pronouncing the verdict, special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court judge A S Sayyad today said due to paucity of evidence, the court holds Sooraj Pancholi not guilty.

The judge said, "Due to paucity of evidence, this court holds you (Sooraj) not guilty acquitted." The judge then told Rabia Khan that she could prepare an appeal against the acquittal order.

"I will fight. This judgment is not surprising I had anticipated this. This is not a case of abetment to suicide it is a case of murder," she said.

Pancholi's lawyer Prashant Patil welcomed the court's verdict and said the court has examined all the evidence before passing the judgment.

"It is very easy to make allegations in front of the media, but there was no evidence against Sooraj," he said.

The court was to pronounce its verdict in the morning, but it got delayed till the afternoon after Rabia submitted fresh written arguments.

Jiah (25), an American citizen, was found dead at her Juhu home here on June 3, 2013. Police later arrested Sooraj on the basis of a six-page letter, purportedly written by the Bollywood starlet.

In his final statement submitted to the court on April 12, 2023, Sooraj Pancholi said that he had been booked in a false case and that he was a victim of a false prosecution and persecution.

IPC Section 306 says, "If any person commits suicide, whoever actively abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine."

The CBI had alleged that the letter seized by the Mumbai police, which probed the case initially, was written by Jiah Khan.

The note narrated Jiah Khan's "intimate relationship, physical abuse, and mental and physical torture" allegedly at the hands of Sooraj which led her to commit suicide, the central agency said.

Rabia Khan, a key prosecution witness in the case, told the court that she believed it to be a case of murder and not suicide. The Bombay High Court had last year dismissed her petition seeking a fresh investigation into the case.

During her deposition, Rabia Khan had told the CBI court that Sooraj used to subject Jiah to physical and verbal abuse.

Rabia Khan also told the court that neither the police nor the CBI had collected any "legal evidence" to prove that her daughter had committed suicide.

Sooraj, in his final statement filed before the court, had claimed the investigation and chargesheet were false, adding that the prosecution witnesses testified against him at the behest of complainant Rabia Khan, the police, and the CBI.

Sooraj in his final statement to the court also said that Jiah was suffering from depression since 2012 and had in fact cut herself on her arm in November 2012. He claimed that he had informed Rabia Khan about this incident.

With PTI Inputs