The February-2011 Soumya rape and murder case of Kerala that once again returned to national headlines last week following Supreme Court’s refusal to give death penalty to the accused — Govindachamy — appears to have entered another round of controversy among the legal experts.
BA Aloor, Govindachamy’s criminal lawyer, has hit back at Justice Markandey Katju, who had criticised the SC verdict as "wrong", saying Katju’s comment showed that he was an "incompetent and prejudiced judge" during his years in office.
Last week, Katju had said that SC had "grievously erred" in the Soumya case by not holding Govindachamy guilty of murder. Earlier, a Thrissur fast-track court had imposed death penalty to Govindachamy in this case, which was later upheld by the Kerala High Court. But the SC commuted the sentence to life term for raping the 23-year-old sales girl, citing lack of evidence on the prosecution side to prove that Govindachamy indeed had the intention to murder Soumya. This judgment had caused wide public uproar.
“The comments that Katju made show all his rulings (as a Supreme Court judge) done in 2007-2011 need to be seen with suspicion. His orders and judgments were done with prejudice in the context of his criticism on the SC judgment (in Soumya case). Katju, according to me as an advocate, is not a competent judge. Justice is not something that should be available only to one party. Even the accused also deserves that,” Aloor told Firstpost.
Katju, in his Facebook post, had said: “The Supreme Court judgment in the Soumya case is wrong… I submit that the Supreme Court has erred in law in not holding the accused guilty of murder, and its judgment needs to be reviewed to this extent."
While commuting Govindachamy’s death penalty to life term, the SC had observed that it wasn’t a place for guess work (in reference to prosecution’s weak case).
In another post, observing that it was "regrettable," the court has not read Section 300 carefully, Katju said, "What the court has overlooked is that Section 300 IPC, which defines murder, has four parts and only the first part requires intention to kill."
"If any of the other three parts are established, it will be murder even if there was no intention to kill," he said.
But Aloor refuted Katju’s claims saying the accused in this case (Govindachamy) neither had the knowledge, intention nor the motive (to kill the victim).
“According to the Supreme Court judgment, there is no evidence that injury number 1 was caused by the accused. Even if one imagines that injury number 1 was caused by the accused, even there he doesn’t have the intention (to murder) except to get her mobile phone. The injury number 2 was caused by the victim falling of train either by jumping or by force. Even the injury number 2 is not cause of death, according to forensic reports. In this backdrop, both these injuries were not caused by the accused. The accused raped her, but didn’t have the knowledge that his act will lead to her death,” Aloor said.
The Soumya case
The incident happened on the evening of 1 Februrary, 2011. According to the prosecution, Govindachamy entered the train compartment in the Ernakulam-Shornur passenger, where Soumya was the lone traveller. Govindachamy then hit her head repeatedly against the wall, let her fall off the train, jumped after her, dragged her body to a nearby place to rape and ransack her. Soumya died after five days. The prosecution had this entire narrative when it presented the case in the courts, but what it didn’t have with it was scientific evidence to prove the narrative that it was Govindachamy’s act that led to Soumya’s murder.
The SC acknowledged the fact that Soumya was raped by Govindachamy, but the absence of evidence prompted the SC bench to avoid giving capital punishment to Govindachamy. Aloor is also said to be considering defending the Jisha rape, murder case accused, Ameer-ul Islam, according to a report in Mathrubhumi website.
Earlier, Firstpost had highlighted the irony of Govindachamy, a ‘beggar’, being defended by an expensive lawyer like Aloor, who charges Rs 5 lakh per case. Aloor has billed Rs 15 lakh for the three hearings where he represented Govindachamy. Aloor didn’t specify who hired him for the case, but said it was a group of people, whom he had defended in some earlier cases and who now wants to rescue Govindachamy.
“I have taken up this case because they are giving me the fee I asked. Such people wouldn’t want to disclose their names and identity,” he said.