Women's activists are not overly jubilant over the Ernakulam Principal Sessions Court verdict awarding the death penalty to the lone accused in the sensational Jisha murder case – that they compared with New Delhi's Nirbhaya case.
This is because of several grey areas they find in the case. Prominent women activist and advocate TB Mini pointed out many loopholes in the prosecution's case. She feels that these could come handy to the convict to escape harsh punishment when the case goes to the high court for confirmation of the death penalty or if he files an appeal.
Sessions court judge N Anil Kumar awarded capital punishment to 24-year-old Ameer ul-Islam, a migrant worker from Assam, after finding him guilty of raping and murdering Jisha. The 30-year-old Dalit law student was found dead in her house at Perumbavoor in Ernakulam district on 28 April, 2016.
Mini told Firstpost that the biggest lacuna in the case was the absence of witnesses. The court has convicted Ameer relying on scientific and circumstantial evidence. Mini said she had strong doubts whether the death penalty will stand before the court of law merely on the basis of the available evidence.
Retired superintendent of police Subhash Babu also aired similar apprehensions. He said that he did not expect a capital punishment in the case considering the evidence available to the police. He said that it will be hard for the prosecution to defend the death penalty in a higher court.
He pointed out that Supreme Court had quashed the death penalty awarded to the convict in the Soumya murder and rape case that has many similarities with the Jisha case. The apex court altered the capital punishment awarded to Govindachami, the lone convict in the case, with an observation that death penalty cannot be awarded if there is an iota of doubt.
Women's activists are sceptical about the outcome of the case in a higher court as advocate BA Aaloor, who saved the life of Govindachami, is pleading for Ameer as well. Mini said Aaloor was an expert in picking holes in the prosecution cases.
"Unfortunately, there are several holes in the Jisha case that the defence lawyer could turn into the advantage of his client," added Mini.
The lawyer said the failure of the police to explain a third fingerprint found at the crime site was the biggest lapse in the case. This raises strong suspicions that more people might have been involved in the crime. The police had filed the chargesheet in the case without making any attempt to trace the man behind the third fingerprint.
She said there were also flaws in the autopsy, which was conducted by a medical student at the Alappuzha Medical College. Though Jisha's body was sent for a post-mortem before noon the day after the murder, the doctor's report said the body was brought to the medical college in a decomposed condition.
“Usually, a dead body starts decomposing after 38 hours. We don't know how Jisha's body had decomposed in less than 12 hours. The post-mortem report has not explained this. I don't know how the court has accepted it as part of scientific evidence produced by the police," exclaimed Mini.
The lawyer said there were several such contradictions in the 1,800-page chargesheet filed by the police. Mini said that she will be able to comment on the fate of the case only after knowing how the lower court judge had received them.
Curiously, the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) had also brought several lapses in the investigation and scientific evidence collected by the police to the notice of the government. In a 16-page confidential report submitted to the home secretary, the then VACB director Jacob Thomas said that the third fingerprint found at the crime site was sufficient ground to suspect the involvement of other people in the crime.
The report prepared on the basis of an internal investigation conducted by the agency said that the police had hurriedly filed the chargesheet without explaining this and other weak points in the case. Kerala Police chief Loknath Behra rejected the VACB report saying that the involvement of the agency in the case was unwarranted.
Kozhikode-based women activist P Geetha, who had pursued the case, said the probe into Jisha's murder was flawed from the very beginning. She alleged that the attempt of the local police was to cover up the case. The news regarding the death was relegated to obit pages in the local dailies at the instance of the police.
"The crime scene was not cordoned off and no police official was posted there to guard the body. Police allowed the body to be cremated soon after the post-mortem the next day. There was no mention of sexual assault suffered by Jisha in the first information report (FIR) lodged by Kuruppumthura police," said Geetha.
The rape of Jisha came to light only after her classmates in the law college accessed the post-mortem report. But by then, many vital pieces of evidence in the case were destroyed. Ameer was arrested from Tamil Nadu after more than a month.
Geetha said that it was difficult to believe that the poor migrant worker from Assam had enough clout to influence the police and other agencies involved in the investigation to cover up the case. She firmly believes that the lapses could be part of an attempt to save the hidden forces behind the case.
"The lapses in the police investigation may be acceptable to the court. But they are not sufficient to convince the people, who suspect foul play in the investigation of the crime, which was committed in the run-up to the Assembly election," Geetha added.
She believes that the case that became a major issue in the election may have influenced the poll outcome to a big extent. The Left Democratic Front (LDF) had shifted the focus of their campaign to women protection based on the case and it got a handsome dividend from it.
The women's activist also wonders how Ameer got the money to hire a senior lawyer like Aaloor, who charges a hefty fee from his clients. She said there were several other mysteries in the case. The people of Kerala can believe justice is done to Jisha only after clearing the mystery surrounding the case. Till then, it will continue to haunt the mind of every Malayalee, she added.
Aaloor has been maintaining that his client was innocent. He believes that Ameer was framed in the case. The lawyer said that he had tried to establish this during the trial but the court did not allow him to make his points.
"The court has acted like a mouthpiece of the prosecution. The court was more interested in satisfying the public sentiments instead of examining the merit of the arguments," he said, adding that he will get sufficient opportunity to argue his points when the cases move to the higher level.
He told reporters after the verdict that his client will challenge the sessions court verdict in the high court. He has expressed confidence that his client may be spared of the death penalty in case he doesn't comes out unscathed.
Updated Date: Dec 14, 2017 18:41 PM