The Supreme Court on Thursday commuted the death sentence of Govindachamy, a convict in the brutal rape and murder case of 23-year-old Soumya, to a seven-year jail term after dropping the murder charge against him.
A bench of headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi upheld charges under sections 376 (punishment for rape), 394 (Voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery) and 325 (Punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt) of the Indian Penal Code.
“The sentence of death for commission of offence under Section 302 IPC (punishment for murder) is set aside and instead the accused is sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for seven years,” the bench also comprising of justices Prafulla C Pant and UU Lalit said.
“The intention of the accused in keeping the deceased in a supine position...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...,” the bench said.
“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,” it added.
In 2013, the Kerala high court confirmed the death sentence awarded by the Thrissur fast track court to Govindachamy from Virudanagar in Tamil Nadu, the lone convict in the Soumya murder case.
The prosecution had said the incident took place when Soumya, an employee of a Kochi shopping mall, was travelling in a ladies coach on the Ernakulam-Shoranur passenger train on February 1, 2011 and was attacked and pushed off from the slow-moving train by Govindachamy.
It had also said the man jumped off the train, carried the injured woman to a wooded area near the track at Vallathol Nagar and raped her. She succumbed to injuries at the Government Medical College Hospital, Thrissur, on February 6, 2011.
The prosecution had also pointed out that Govindachamy had already been convicted in eight cases in his native state.
The fast track court in 2012 awarded death sentence to the accused, considering him as a habitual offender and held that the brutal rape was one of the reasons for the victim’s death and that the nature of the crime was savage and had shocked the society.
The HC had upheld the death sentence two years later, against which he moved the Supreme Court.