Govindachamy, convicted in the sensational rape and murder case of Soumya in Kerala, today escaped death penalty as the Supreme Court dropped murder charge against him and upheld life imprisonment for raping the 23-year-old sales representative.
The verdict came as shock for the victim’s family which dubbed it as “heart breaking” and expressed anguish over the “failure” of the state prosecutor to “properly” present the case in apex court.
In the 22-page verdict, the apex court discharged Govindachamy under section 302 (murder) of IPC, in which the maximum sentence is capital punishment, saying there was no intention on his part to kill the victim but only to sexually assault her by keeping her in a supine position.
The court said the “brutal” and “grotesque” manner in which the victim was assaulted before rape after she had fallen out of a slow-moving train at a lonely place before the station, warrants retainment of life sentence awarded by the trial court which was confirmed by the Kerala High Court.
While dropping section 302 of IPC, a bench comprising justices Ranjan Gogoi, P C Pant and U U Lalit held him guilty for the offence of causing grievous hurt under section 325 of the IPC and awarded seven years rigorous imprisonment which will run concurrently with the life sentence awarded to him.
While Saumya’s mother Sumathy said she would not give up her fight to get justice for her daughter and file a revision petition, the state government also said it would seek review of the verdict commuting death sentence of Govindachamy for the February 1, 2011 criminal assault, saying it was “not a just punishment”.
In its verdict, the apex court said “the fact that the deceased survived for a couple of days after the incident and eventually died in hospital would also clearly militate against any intention of accused (Govindachamy) to cause death by the act of keeping the deceased in a supine position.”
“Similarly, in keeping the deceased in a supine position, intention to cause death or knowledge that such act may cause death, cannot be attributed to the accused. We are, accordingly, of the view that the offence under Section 302 IPC cannot be held to be made out against the accused so as to make him liable therefore.
“Rather, we are of the view that the acts of assault etc attributable to the accused would more appropriately attract the offence under Section 325 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt) of IPC. We accordingly find the accused guilty of the said offence and sentence him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for seven years for commission of the same,” it said.
While upholding Govindachamy’s conviction for rape, the apex court said “there can be no manner of doubt that it is the accused who had committed the said offence.”
“The DNA profile, extracted above, clinches the issue and makes the liability of the accused explicit leaving no scope for any doubt or debate in the matter. We, therefore, will find no difficulty in confirming the conviction of the accused under section 376 of IPC,” it said.
While maintaining the jail term granted by the High Court to Govindachamy, the apex court said “…the offence was committed on the deceased who had already suffered extreme injuries on her body. We are of the view that not only the offence under Section 376 IPC was committed by the accused, the same was so committed in a most brutal and grotesque manner which would justify the imposition of life sentence as awarded by trial court and confirmed by High Court.”
The court upheld the charges under section 376 (punishment for rape) and 394 (voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery) while altering the conviction under section 302 (murder) to one under Section 325 (punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt) of IPC.
According to the prosecution, the incident took place when Soumya, an employee of a Kochi shopping mall, was travelling in a ladies coach on the Ernakulam-Shoranur passenger train on February 1, 2011. She was attacked and pushed off from the train by Govindachamy.
It had also said the man jumped off the train, carried the injured woman to a wooded area near the track at Vallathol Nagar and raped her.
She succumbed to injuries at the Government Medical College Hospital, Thrissur, on February 6, 2011.
The prosecution had pointed out that Govindachamy had already been convicted in eight cases in his native state.
The fast track court in 2012 awarded death sentence to the accused, considering him a habitual offender, and held that the brutal rape was one of the reasons for the victim’s death and the nature of the crime was savage and had shocked the society.
The High Court had upheld the death sentence two years later, against which he had moved the Supreme Court.