Soumya murder: Death sentence cannot be awarded if there is any doubt, says SC
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday observed that the prosecution had committed serious lapses during trial in the Soumya murder case and said death sentence cannot be awarded to the accused Govindachamy if there is an iota of doubt.
A three-judge bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Prafulla C. Pant and Uday Lalit, hearing the review petitions filed by the State and Sumathi, mother of the victim, asked senior counsel KTS Tulsi why should the witness statements not be believed. The prosecution witnesses had deposed that Soumya had jumped off the train to escape from Govindachamy, the Bench noted and said asked why these statements cannot be relied upon.
The bench told the counsel that the murder charges on the accused were quashed based on the statements of witnesses. Unless the prosecution has clear evidence that the death was caused by Govindachamy, it will be difficult for the court to award death sentence, the bench said. Since Mr Tulsi sought time, the bench adjourned the hearing to October 17.
The Bench heard in open court the petitions filed by the State of Kerala and the mother of Soumya seeking review of the September 15 verdict setting aside the murder charge on the accused Govindachamy, and awarding him life imprisonment for rape. The Thrissur fast track court had awarded death sentence to the accused for the February 6, 2011 incident and the Kerala High Court had confirmed this order.
The prosecution case was that Gonvidachamy had raped Soumya in the compartment of the Ernakulam train after trying to rob her. He then pushed her out of the train and the injured woman died on February 6, 2011.
In its petition Kerala government said the September 15 judgement rests principally on one issue, i.e., that there is no evidence that the deceased was pushed out of a moving train, and that the statements of prosecution witnesses who were traveling in the next compartment to the effect that they were told by a middle aged person who was sitting near the compartment door that a girl jumped.
The state said that it is established beyond doubt that the deceased was beaten black and blue and she suffered from severe injuries as a result of at least four blows on her head which were lethal in nature. It is obvious that the intention of the accused was clear either to kill the deceased in the moving train and/or to molest her. Even if the deceased jumped out from the train, it was occasioned by the accused since otherwise she would lose her life or honour, the state argued.
In her review petition, Soumya’s mother Ms Sumathi submitted that there was enough material evidence to warrant imposition of death penalty under IPC Section 302 (murder). The apex court had erroneously set aside the murder charge as the prosecution had not highlighted certain crucial aspects, she said.