Kollam: Sooraj S Kumar, who was found guilty of murdering his wife, 25-year-old Uthra, by forcing a poisonous snake to bite her, has been awarded double life sentence by a trial court here on Wednesday.
Announcing the quantum of punishment, Kollam Additional Sessions Court Judge M Manoj observed that the case was 'rarest of rare'.
The Court decided on life sentence despite the prosecution requesting death penalty for the convict considering his age and lack of criminal antecedents.
Besides life for murder, Kumar was also awarded life sentence for the offence of attempt to murder, 10 years for poisoning and seven years for destruction of evidence, according to Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) G Mohanraj.
He also said that the court has specifically directed that the convict will first serve the sentences awarded for poisoning and destruction of evidence – total 17 years – and thereafter, his life imprisonment will commence.
The court has said the two life terms awarded to Kumar would run concurrently.
He also said that the court has imposed a total fine of Rs 5.85 lakh on the convict.
Uthra's father Vijayasenan and brother Vishu were present in the court as the verdict was announced.
However, Uthra's parents said they were unhappy with the verdict.
Speaking to media, her mother Manimegalai said they would seek legal measures to ensure maximum punishment to Sooraj. "We are not satisfied with this verdict. Loopholes in the legal system are creating criminals in the society," he said.
Police officer S Harishankar, who led the probe team, said he was satisfied with the punishment. "The court convicted the accused in all charges imposed by the investigators. This is a victory of the coordination between the probe team, prosecution and other departments involved in the investigation," he said.
On October 11, the court had found Sooraj guilty for committing offences under Indian Penal Code (IPC) such as murder (Section 302), attempt to murder (Section 307), causing hurt by means of poison (Section 328), and causing disappearance of evidence of offence (Section 201).
The prosecution had urged the court to award Sooraj death sentence as it was the rarest of the rare cases.
The prosecution had told the court that the 28-year-old had committed four out of the five acts listed by the Supreme Court of India as reasonable grounds for awarding the death sentence.
The sensational, rarely heard crime, which came to be known as the Uthra murder case, was committed on May 7, 2020 at Sooraj's house at Anchal in Kerala's Kollam district.
The crime branch wing of the state police carried out a detailed probe and even used a dummy to recreate the incident. The cobra that had bitten Uthra was 150 centimetre long, and the bite by such a snake would cause only a 1.7 or 1.8 cm-deep puncture on the human body. Investigators, who conducted the dummy experiment, established that Sooraj had held the snake's hood against Uthra's body, causing the puncture to go as deep as 2.3 and 2.8 cms.
Sooraj made the first attempt to get a snake to bite Uthra on February 29, 2020. During the second attempt on March 2, 2020, Uthra was bitten by a viper, and admitted to a hospital in Thiruvalla for 56 days. She was recovering at Eram, in Anchal, when she received the fatal snakebite on the night of May 6. She died the next day.
Suresh, a resident of Chavarukavu, Kalluvathukkal, turned approver in the case. He had sold the cobra to Sooraj.