The Bombay High Court in a judgement pronounced on Thursday confirmed the death sentence awarded to one Chandrabhan Sanap who was convicted of rape and murder of a 23-year-old software engineer from Andhra Pradesh employed with TCS in Goregaon, Mumbai.
Once the Additional Sessions Judge convicted Sanap under Sections 302, 364, 366, 376(2)(m), 376A, 392 r/w Section 397 and 201 of the IPC in October 2015 and sentenced him to death, the case was placed before the division bench of Justice Ranjit More and Justice Bharati Dangre for confirmation. This confirmation case was tagged along with Sanap’s appeal against the said judgment.
According to the prosecution, the victim was working as a software engineer for TCS and was residing in a hostel for women in Andheri. She had visited her parents on account of leave, she stayed there from December 22, 2013 to January 4, 2014. She boarded the train on January 4, 2014 and reached LTT Station, Kurla the next day on January 5. Thereafter, her father attempted to call her but there was no response as the phone kept ringing. He then enquired at her hostel whether she had reached safely but was told that his daughter had not reached. As a result, victim’s father launched a missing report at Vijaywada Railway Police Station. With the said complaint, the victim’s father reached LTT station and was told to go to Kurla Police Station, which he did.
Victim’s body was found on January 16, 2014 in a decomposed and burnt condition in the bushes near Eastern Express Highway. Victim’s father was able to identify her body through her belongings and a ring she wore on her finger. Victim’s body was finally handed over to the victim’s father on January 17 for the performance of last rites which took place in Machilipatnam.
The investigation was carried out by Crime Branch, Mumbai and a CCTV footage from the cameras installed at LTT station was extracted. In the said footage, the victim can be seen talking on the phone while a man wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans is seen dragging her trolley bag. 39 witnesses were examined by the prosecution whereas Sanap, pleaded not guilty to all charges and 4 witnesses were examined in his defence.
Additional Sessions Judge found Sanap guilty and sentenced him to death. Court also imposed a fine on Sanap of Rs.50,000 payable to the victim’s parents.
Submissions and Judgement
Raja Thakare was appointed the Special Public Prosecutor in the case and Nitin Pradhan appeared on behalf of the convicted Sanap along with Subhada Khot. Pradhan submitted that the prosecution has failed to discharge its duty in proving the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. Circumstances of the case cannot lead to other hypothesis and mere suspicion, however grave it may be, cannot be a substitute for a proof and in the case based on circumstantial evidence, the Court must be extra cautious in relying on the evidence brought on record by the prosecution, Pradhan said. He further stated that there was no evidence to show that the accused had abducted the victim, raped her and then killed her.
SPP Raja Thakare relied on the post-mortem reports which clearly state that the victim was subjected to forcible sexual intercourse and thereafter killed by causing head injury coupled with smothering. It is also According to the report, death had occurred on account of the said head injury with smothering associated with genital injuries. The prosecution then relied on the testimony of its 39 witnesses, two such crucial testimonies were of Shivkaran Chhotelal Patel who runs a Canteen at Kurla Terminus Railway Station and Ramesh Rathod, a taxi driver who was present at the taxi stand in LTT on January 5. Both had noticed the 28-29-year-old well-built man with a moustache and a broad forehead wearing a white t-shirt and blue colour jeans. In a test identification parade conducted by the police, both these witnesses identified Chandrabhan as the same person they had described.
Most importantly, one Nand Kishore Sahu, state that the accused had confessed his crime to him. He narrated how he knew Chandrabhan and on the night of January 4, him and the accused consumed liquor. Thereafter, accused wanted to eat something, so he took Nand Kishore’s motorcycle with him. Thereafter, the next morning when Nand Kishor visited Sanap’s house, he noticed one handbag and one trolley bag there and there was also one white colour tshirt stained with mud lying there. Thereafter, when Nand Kishore enquired about his motorcycle, accused told him he had parked the motorcycle on the highway as there was no petrol. When they both went to get the motorcycle, accused wandered away into the bushes, witness followed him only to find the victim’s body there.
The accused then confessed his crime to Nand Kishor and told him that he asked the girl where she wanted to go, she replied Andheri, he told her that he is also going to Andheri and he had taken her on the motorcycle and brought her on the said spot and thereafter he raped her and when she started shouting, he pressed her mouth and strangulated her by scarf and killed her.
“It is obvious that the accused who after drinking liqour was wandering the whole night and spotted on the railway platform in the early hours and on seeing a young lonely helpless woman, who easily fell prey to his concocted story of offering to drive her to destination and who took her to the secluded spot from where the body was recovered in a highly decomposed state, we need not to find motive for committing the crime with which the accused was charged.”
Further Court commented on the offence of rape and its impact on society-
“Rape has always been looked upon as a crime to be ranked alongside murder in terms of seriousness because of the violence and the violation it involves. The way in which a Society protects its victims of crime is a barometer of that society’s standards of human dignity and decency. When a woman in the society is raped, it is not only she who is subjected to rape, but it is the tendency that is reflected to overpower, to violate and to crash the dignity of the entire woman creed in the society."
Finally confirming the death sentence, Court said-
“Such a person would surely remain a menace to the Society and in this backdrop, we are of the firm view that there are no extraneous mitigating circumstances available on record which may justify imposition of sentence less than a death sentence which the learned Sessions Court has imposed.”
Read the Judgment Here