Soumya Rape and murder Case: Offence of murder not made out against Govindaswami

Supreme Court: In the infamous Soumya rape and murder case, the 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, P.C. Pant and U.U. Lalit, JJ confirmed the conviction of the accused under Section 376 IPC but set aside the death sentence awarded by the Kerala High Court.

In the case at hand, the accused had assaulted the 23-year-old deceased in a ladies’ compartment of a train and had also repeatedly hit her head on the walls of the compartment. It was alleged by the prosecution that the deceased was then dropped/pushed by the accused from the running train to the track and that the side of her face hit on the crossover of the railway line. The accused appellant also jumped down from the other side of the running train and after lifting the victim to another place by the side of the track he sexually assaulted her. Thereafter he ransacked her belongings and went away from the place with her mobile phone.

Considering the facts of the case and the evidence produced before the Court, it was held that there can be no manner of doubt that it is the accused appellant who had committed the offence of rape under Section 376 IPC. Having regard to the fact that the said offence was committed on the deceased who had already suffered extreme injuries on her body, the Court said 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.

However, regarding the offence of murder under Section 302 IPC, the Court took note of the opinion of the doctor who said that the death of the deceased was an outcome of the combination of injuries caused due to the assault i.e. keeping of the deceased in a supine position for commission of sexual assault and the fall from the train. The Court considered the oral evidence of an eye witness who said that the girl had jumped out of the train and had made good her escape and said that the circumstances appearing against the accused have to be weighed against the oral evidence on record and the conclusion that would follow must necessarily be the only possible conclusion admitting of no other possibility.

Regarding keeping of the deceased in a supine position for commission of sexual assault, the Court held that 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 was for the purposes of the sexual assault. Further, 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. The Court, hence, held that the offence under Section 302 IPC cannot be held to be made out against the accused so as to make him liable. [Govindaswamy v. State of Kerala, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 939 decided on 15.09.2016]

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