Soumya's alleged rapist-murderer, Govindachamy, has escaped the fear of death, for now – a luxury she didn’t have while lying on the railway track on that fateful evening of 1 February 2011 when she was raped and beaten. She battled for five days thereafter of her life at Thrissur government hospital.
However, there is no point in blaming the Supreme Court or lamenting the insensitiveness of the judiciary to the tears of Soumya’s family. Let’s admit the facts. The court has only done what it is supposed to do — weigh the case based only on evidence and pass the judgment. In this case, the investigators of Soumya's case and the prosecution have miserably failed to present a watertight case in the apex court to establish how the 23-year-old salesgirl was brutally murdered at the hands of the single-handed ‘beggar’ on her way back home from work.
Here’s the case in a nutshell: According to the prosecution, Govindachamy entered her compartment in the Ernakulam-Shornur passenger train, where Soumya was the lone traveller. Govindachamy then hit her head repeatedly against the walls, let her fall off the train, jumped after her, dragged her body to a nearby place to rape and ransacked her. Soumya succumbed to her injuries after five days. The prosecution had this entire narrative with them when it presented the case in the courts, but what it didn’t have was scientific evidence to prove that it was Govindachamy’s act that led to Soumya’s murder. It couldn’t support the narrative. The court has acknowledged the fact that Soumya was raped, but the absence of evidence prompted the SC bench to avoid giving capital punishment to Govindachamy.
A section of the legal experts, including Justice Katju, has questioned the SC verdict on legal grounds. Kerala’s LDF-government too has decided to file a review petition with the SC and seek the death penalty for Govindachamy, even though this stance goes against Left’s very ideology that argues strongly against capital punishment as a primitive measure unfit for a modern society.
But, the SC certainly has its reasons to observe that the court wasn’t a place for guess work, but an institution that works on the basis of hard evidence. Hence, the public uproar on the SC verdict and cries for justice are nothing but emotional exuberances.
But, the bigger question to ask here is how a beggar and an alleged habitual petty offender, managed to get the service of one of the top criminal lawyers, and an expensive one at that, to appear for him in the case. According to this The NewsMinute report, prominent lawyer BA Aloor who appeared for Govindachamy to defend him in the court, charges Rs 5 lakh per case. “I charge Rs 5 lakh per criminal case and my duty is only to represent my client. Since I have represented him in three courts, the charges have exceeded Rs 15 lakhs, but that is not of anyone's concern,” The News Minute quoted Aloor, post the SC judgment.
Also, more investigations need to be done to probe Govindachamy’s background and his actual identity. According to media reports, at the time of Soumya-murder in 2011, Govindachamy’s name was Charley Thomas in Tamil Nadu Police records. The Open magazine report quoted Aloor as saying that he was hired by a group in Panvel, which was itself accused in a robbery case. Aloor had appeared for this group before, the report says. The question is which is this group who wants to spend lakhs of rupees to defend an accused in a rape-murder case? Is there more to Govindachamy’s story than just the case of a ‘one-handed beggar’? Is he part of a bigger, powerful syndicate?
The Govindachamy case, beyond the obvious issue of justice to Soumya, appears to have hidden layers that point to a larger scheme. It needs to be investigated thoroughly. The very fact that Govindachamy has been enjoying support from a faceless, cash-rich group itself is reason enough to believe that the case isn’t confined to the brutal act of a one-handed beggar on a helpless girl.