New Delhi: Seeting aside the death penalty awarded to the convict in a 2011 case, in which a 23-year-old woman died after being sexually assaulted in Kerala, the Supreme Court on Thursday sentenced him to life imprisonment. A three-judge Bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Prafulla C. Pant and Uday Lalit gave this verdict on an appeal filed by death-row convict Govindachamy challenging the High Court judgment confirming the order of the Thrissur Fast Track Court awarding him death sentence for the February 6, 2011 incident.
The prosecution case was that Gonvid-achamy pushed Soumya out of the compartment of the Ernakulam train after trying to rob her. He then raped the seriously injured woman, who died on Februay 6, 2011. Justice Gogoi writing the judgment said “as per the evidence of prosecution witnesses there can be no doubt that it is the accused who committed the said offence. We, therefore, will find no difficulty in confirming the conviction of the accused for rape.
Having regard to the fact that the said 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 the trial court and confirmed by the HC.”
On whether the appellant had committed murder by pushing the victim from the train, the Bench said the vital fact that would require consideration is whether the accused is responsible for injury which apparently was occasioned by the fall of the deceased from the running train.
However, it said so far as the injury is concerned, unless the fall from the train can be ascribed to the accused on the basis of the cogent and reliable evidence, meaning thereby, that the accused had pushed the deceased out of the train and the possibility of the deceased herself jumping out of train is ruled out, the liability of the accused for the said injury may not necessary follow.
In this regard, the Bench rejected the prosecution submission that in view of the impaired mental reflexes that the deceased had at that point of time it may not have been possible for her to take a decision to jump out of the train. The Bench referred to the evidence of a middle aged man, standing at the door of the compartment, that the girl had jumped out of the train and had made good her escape.
The Bench said the circumstances appearing against the accused has to be weighed against the oral evidence on record and the conclusion that would follow must necessarily be the only possible conclusion admitting of no other possibility. Such a conclusion to the exclusion of any other, in our considered view, cannot be reached in the light of the facts noted above.
The judges said the intention of the accused in keeping the deceased in a supine position, was for the purposes of the sexual assault. The requisite knowledge that in the circumstances such an act may cause death, also, cannot be attributed to the accused.
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 the accused to cause death by the act of keeping the deceased in a supine position. The Bench therefore acquitted him of the murder charge but maintained the conviction and sentence of life imprisonment for the rape committed by him.