Thursday, December 01, 2011

Nailing the accused

Notables like Justice V.K. Krishna Iyer, poet Chemmanam Chacko, forensic surgeon, Dr. Sherly Vasu, and Special Prosecutor, A Sureshan, speak about the Soumya murder case

Photo: Govindachamy being led outside the Thrissur fast track court by policemen after receiving the death sentence

By Shevlin Sebastian

At the monthly meeting of writers and artists, 'Poomukham', organised by the Heart Light Association, at Kochi, Justice V.K. Krishna Iyer, 97, clad in spotless white and accompanied by a doctor, says, “The death sentence should not be allowed, except in the rarest of rare cases. Our leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru rejected it. Half the countries in the world have abolished the death penalty. Life has been given by God and man has no right to take it.”

Justice Iyer was referring to the death sentence imposed by the Thrissur fast-track court on Govindachamy, the convicted killer of Soumya, a young girl who was travelling at night, on the Ernakulam-Shoranur passenger train, on February 1, and was raped and died a few days later.

However, poet Chemmanam Chacko says, “Govindachamy took a life in the most gruesome manner. How do we deal with such a man? Unless there is a strict punishment, people will not behave properly.”

Listening to the speakers is Dr. Sherly Vasu, the senior-most forensic surgeon in the state, who had done the post-mortem on Soumya. Having a daughter of a similar age and travelling regularly on the same route that Soumya travelled, Dr. Vasu could empathise with what happened to the young girl. “The court case is fought on what is written in the post-mortem report,” she says. “So, it is important to do the job in such a way that there is no controversy about it.”

However, controversy did hit the post-mortem team when one of the doctors, A.K. Unmesh, of the Department of Forensic Medicine, Government Medical College, stated in the court, on October 10, that he had done the post-mortem himself.

“In fact, six people, including Dr. Unmesh, took part, and their signatures are there on the report,” says Dr. Vasu. “So I am surprised by his statement. I have no idea why he kept quiet all these months.” The post-mortem had been done on February 7, and Dr. Vasu testified in court about it from July 12-15. Meanwhile, Dr. Unmesh has been suspended from service, and faces an investigation.

Special Prosecutor A. Sureshan says that there are 123 digital photographs of the post-mortem. “It will be difficult for Dr. Unmesh to prove that he did the post-mortem by himself,” he says. “It seems to me that he had wanted to save the accused. If these photographs would not have been there, Dr. Vasu would have been in trouble.”

Sureshan, on dwelling on the case, says that there were 154 witnesses. They included a tribal from Wayanad, an auto-rickshaw driver, commuters, as well as the local people. “It was a brutal assault,” he says. “By the buttons that were seen on the floor of the train, it was clear that Soumya had put up a struggle. Her skull was broken by banging her head against the door. There was massive internal bleeding and her lungs were full of blood. Her teeth had been broken and she inadvertently swallowed it. It was discovered later in her stomach.”

Soumya lay on the tracks, late at night, her clothes ripped off, and the local people discovered her because they heard the large gasping sounds of the young girl trying to breathe.

"In the end it was a great news for me that Govindachamy was convicted, eight-and-a-half months after the murder,” says Sureshan. “Some people called me up and said, 'For a long time we felt that there were no courts or justice in this country. But now our faith is re-affirmed.' This judgement will have a healing effect on society.”

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)