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Soumya Case: SC Acquits Govindachami Of Murder Charges; Awards LIFE TERM For Rape [Read Judgment]

The Supreme Court has acquitted Govindachami alias Govindaswamy, the accused in Soumya Rape and Murder case, of Murder charges while upholding the conviction and sentence under Section 376 IPC for Rape and other offences.

“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 learned trial Court and confirmed by the High Court.”

Partly allowing the Appeal preferred by the Accused Govindachami, the Apex Court Bench comprising of Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Prafulla C. Pant and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit has set aside the death penalty awarded for the Offence of Murder (S.302): but has sentenced him to Life imprisonment for Rape (s.376 IPC).

Conviction altered to Section 325IPC:

Altering the Conviction and Sentence awarded to the Accused Govindachami under Section 302IPC to one under 325 IPC, the Bench has held as follows:

“However, to hold that the accused is liable under Section 302 IPC what is required is an intention to cause death or knowledge that the act of the accused is likely to cause death. The intention of the accused in keeping the deceased in a supine position, according to P.W. 64, 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, inasmuch as, the evidence of P.W. 64 itself is to the effect that such knowledge and information is, in fact, parted with in the course of training of medical and para-medical staff. 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. Therefore, in the totality of the facts discussed above, the accused cannot be held liable for injury no.2. Similarly, in keeping the deceased in a supine position, intention to cause death or knowledge that such act may cause death, cannot be attributed to the accused. We are, accordingly, of the view that the offence under Section 302 IPC cannot be held to be made out against the accused so as to make him liable therefor. Rather, we are of the view that the acts of assault, etc. attributable to the accused would more appropriately attract the offence under Section 325 IPC. We accordingly find the accused appellant guilty of the said offence and sentence him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for seven years for commission of the same”.

Sentence awarded by Supreme Court:

Regarding the Sentence the Bench has concluded as follows:

“We are, accordingly, of the view that the offence under Section 302 IPC cannot be held to be made out against the accused so as to make him liable therefor. Rather, we are of the view that the acts of assault, etc. attributable to the accused would more appropriately attract the offence under Section 325 IPC. We accordingly find the accused appellant guilty of the said offence and sentence him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for seven years for commission of the same. 18. Consequently and in the light of the above discussions, we partially allow the appeals filed by the accused appellant. 21 While the conviction under Section 376 IPC, Section 394 read with Section 397 IPC and Section 447 IPC and the sentences imposed for commission of the said offences are maintained, the conviction under Section 302 IPC is set aside and altered to one under Section 325 IPC. The sentence of death for commission of offence under Section 302 IPC is set aside and instead the accused is sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for seven years. All the sentences imposed shall run concurrently. The order of the learned Trial Court and the High Court is accordingly modified”.

Prosecution Case

The incident occurred when 23-year-old Soumya MG was travelling in Ernakulam-Shornur passenger train No. 56608 on 1 February, 2011, back home from Kochi to Shornur. Accused Govindachami, who noticed Soumya travelling alone in the ladies’ compartment, trespassed into it as the train left Vallathole Nagar and caught hold of her with the intention to commit rape and robbery. As a result of the scuffle, she was dropped out of the moving train. The accused, too, sprang out of the moving train at Vettikattiri Desom at Vallathole Nagar and returned to the place where Soumya was lying in a daze. He shifted her to a nearby lonely place and, placing her in between two railway tracks, forcibly had sexual intercourse with her and also took away her mobile phone, worth Rs 1600. She was found later after co-passengers alerted the Railways authorities and was admitted to the Medical College Hospital in Thrissur immediately. However, she succumbed to her injuries on 6 February, 2011. The Trial (2011) The accused was tried at a fast track court in Thrissur. Convicting the accused for causing rape and murder and awarding him death penalty, the trial court judge K Raveendra Babu observed: “The victim was dazed even at the time of dropping. The accused committed the rape on the victim after the fall. The entire offence was extremely brutal in character and carried out in a domain manner. Therefore, I am of the clear view that the accused deserve nothing less than the extreme penalty of death. Lesser penalty is inadequate. If a lesser penalty is given, the society may lose faith in the efficacy of the justice system.” The court observed: “The bad antecedents of the accused and his subsequent conduct indicate that he is a menace to the society and is incapable of rehabilitation. The extreme depravity with which the offences were committed and the merciless manner in which rape was committed brings the case within the category of rarest of rare case which merits the death penalty.”

Read the Trial Court Judgment here.

The Appeal (2012-2013) An appeal preferred by the accused was heard by the Kerala High Court Bench comprising Justice TR Ramachandran Nair and Justice B Kemal Pasha, which confirmed the conviction recorded by the trial court. Justice Pasha who authored the judgment, while confirming death penalty, observed: “The murder of the girl in these circumstances makes this a case of extreme culpability. The manner in which the girl was raped, robbed and murdered, the approach, and the method adopted by the accused disclose the traits of outrageous criminality in the behaviour of the accused and his premeditated action. This approach of the accused reveals a brutal mind-set of the highest order. The accused is proved to be a dare criminal.”

Read the High Court judgment here.

Hearing at Supreme Court (2014-2016) The accused preferred Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court and the criminal appeal was finally heard by a three-judge Bench comprising Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Prafulla C Pant and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit on 8 September, 2016. There was a huge media outrage when the Bench, during the course of hearing, expressed doubts with regard to Soumya’s ‘jump’ from the train. Reserving the judgment, the Bench remarked: “The court is convinced that Soumya was raped. The court also understands that she died due to head injury. However, it should be clarified whether Soumya was pushed from the train or whether she herself jumped from the train.”

Read the Judgment here.

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  • GEORGE JOSEPH says:

    The apex court eas the last resort for getting justice for the common man. Now that belief and trust is also lost!!

  • Ramachandran.C. says:

    PW 64 Dr. Shirley Vasu is a woman as per reports, though referred as a man in the judgment order. She has maintained that injury 1 (referred in the order) is caused by forceful dashing of the head by holding from behind and that the victim could be unconscious even before the fall and also that the fall was sideways which are enough evidence to rule out a jump. How come the Court gave more weight to the heresay by an unknown middle aged man who said that he found her jump. Injury 1 itself must have been caused with intention to kill and the accused might have gone to where she fell to ensure her death. Finding her unconscious he must have believed her to be dead and did the rest. Injury 1 attributed to the accused is accepted by the Court. Dashing the head several times can only be considered as with intention to kill. With the fall, he must have been certain on that. Ruling out intention to kill by the Court is quite unfortunate.

  • Ramachandran Chengat says:

    Read the Judgment. PW 64 Dr. Shirley Vasu is a woman as per reports, though referred as a man in the judgment order. She has maintained that injury 1 (referred in the order) is caused by forceful dashing of the head by holding from behind and that the victim could be unconscious even before the fall and also that the fall was sideways which are enough evidence to rule out a jump. How come the Court gave more weight to the heresay by an unknown middle aged man who said that he found her jump. Injury 1 itself must have been caused with intention to kill and the accused might have gone to where she fell to ensure her death. Finding her unconscious he must have believed her to be dead and did the rest. Injury 1 attributed to the accused is accepted by the Court. Dashing the head several times can only be considered as with intention to kill. With the fall, he must have been certain on that. Ruling out intention to kill by the Court is quite unfortunate.

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