A sessions court in Kerala on Wednesday awarded double life sentence in the Uthra murder case to the victim’s husband for killing his wife using a cobra, saying the crime was “definitely diabolic, cruel, heinous and dastardly” and committed with “unparalleled wickedness”.
Despite such strong observations, Additional Sessions Judge-VI Manoj M was of the view that the case did not fall in the rarest of the rare category for award of death sentence and instead the court awarded life imprisonment to Sooraj S Kumar for killing his 25-year-old wife Uthra using a cobra.
The second life sentence was awarded for his initial attempt to kill her using the same method.
However, the court directed that the life terms would start only after he serves 17 years — 10 years for poisoning his wife and seven years for destruction of evidence — and as a result he would end up serving a major portion of his remaining life behind bars. “The accused (Kumar) is sentenced to undergo imprisonment for life and pay a fine of Rs 5,00,000 for the offense under Section 302 (murder) IPC. The accused is sentenced to undergo life imprisonment and pay a fine of Rs 50,000 for offence under Section 307 (attempt to murder) IPC. The accused is sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and pay a fine of Rs 25,000 for the offence under Section 328 (poisoning) IPC.
The accused is also sentenced to undergo Rigorous Imprisonment for seven years and to pay a fine of Rs 10,000 for the offence under Section 201 (destruction of evidence) of IPC,” the court said and issued a warrant for sending the convict to Central Prison, Thiruvananthapuram, where he now would be spending a major portion of his remaining life.
It further said that the sentences under Sections 328 and 201, which are term sentences, shall run first, consecutively and thereafter, the sentences of imprisonment for life shall run concurrently.
The court also said that the fine amount, if recovered, shall be given as compensation to the parents of the victim.
“In this case, the minor son of Uthra has lost his mother and he is now in the care and custody of her parents and he needs rehabilitation on account of the crime committed. Therefore, this is a fit case in which recommendation can be made to the District Legal Services Authority, Kollam for payment of compensation to the son of Uthra,” the court said.
In its over 450-page judgement, the court noted the prosecution’s contention that the accused had on both occasions, when he used snakes to kill her, first given her sedatives by mixing it in a liquid and she “unsuspectingly drank it” by “mistaking it for love” when in fact he had given her a “poisoned chalice”.
“In the said circumstance, the commission of murder was definitely diabolic, cruel, heinous and dastardly…”
“In this case, the death was caused by injecting venom, a poison, with a live animal after the unsuspecting victim was sedated. No doubt, the murder is diabolic, ghastly, brutal and heinous,” the court said.
The court further said that while the offence was committed with “unparalleled wickedness” by the accused, who had repeatedly pursued his intent to murder his wife, in the absence of any criminal antecedents, the young age of Kumar would be a mitigating circumstance.
The court also said that “chances of reformation cannot be said to be foreclosed and the case does not fall in the category of rarest of the rare so as to award death sentence. In the said circumstances, it is held that death sentence need not be imposed and a sentence of imprisonment for life would serve the interest of justice”.
Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) G Mohanraj, after the sentence was pronounced, had told reporters that while the crime was termed as rarest of the rare by the court, it did not award the death penalty in view of the young age — presently 28 years — of the convict and the fact that he had no criminal antecedents.
He said the state will decide later whether to go for an appeal or not.
Additional Public Prosecutor AK Manoj told PTI that Kumar appeared unperturbed when the sentence was read out.
Superintendent of Police (SP) Harishanker, who led the investigation in the case, told reporters that the police and prosecution were satisfied by the verdict and sentence.
He said it is the court’s discretion to decide the quantum of sentence and therefore, that cannot be commented upon.
However, the punishment awarded has been viewed as inadequate by many, including the victim’s family and senior political leaders.
The victim’s mother said she was unsatisfied with the sentence awarded as she wanted the convict to be hanged till death and therefore, the family would press for an appeal.
Speaking to reporters at her residence, she also said that it is such shortcomings in the Indian penal system which give rise to criminals like Kumar.
KPCC president K Sudhakaran also expressed his dissatisfaction with the sentence awarded and said that the state should appeal against the same and seek the maximum punishment for the convict.
He said in a statement that the state government must move an appeal without any further delay to send a strong message with regard to safety and security of women in society.
He said the government has a responsibility to ensure that Uthra’s family gets the legal help they need to get the verdict they want.
BJP state president K Surendran also issued a statement expressing dissatisfaction with the punishment awarded and urged the government to move an appeal, seeking death for the convict.
Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly VD Satheesan also said in a statement that the victim’s family’s demand for an appeal should be supported by the government.
Kumar’s lawyer, speaking to reporters after the sentence, on the other hand, said the decision was “immature” and “unjustified” as there was no evidence before the court to convict the accused.
The lawyer said according to him it was a “moral conviction” and his client would be appealing against the decision.
On October 11, the court had held the husband guilty of murder, poisoning, destruction of evidence and also attempt to murder for his first try at killing her by using a viper.
Sooraj had killed his wife Uthra by letting a cobra bite her in her sleep in May last year.
Police had cracked the case following suspicion raised by Uthra’s family as it was the second time she suffered a snake-bite in three months.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)