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Bombay high court confirms death for convict in 2014 Andhra techie’s rape-murder

Stating that the convict was not capable of reformation and showed no remorse, the Bombay high court (HC) on Thursday upheld and confirmed the death sentence pronounced by a special women’s court against Chandrabhan Sanap in 2015. Sanap was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of Esther Anuhya, a 23-year-old software engineer from Andhra Pradesh, in 2014.

Anuhya was murdered shortly after she arrived in Mumbai from Visakhapatnam on January 5, 2014. Sanap offered her a lift on his two-wheeler at Lokmanya Tilak railway Terminus (LTT) and then murdered her at Kanjurmarg and stole her luggage, including a laptop. The engineer’s burnt and decomposed body was found on January 17 at Bhandup. The Government Railway Police (GRP) came across CCTV footage in which she was seen with Sanap, who was 29 years old at the time. The Mumbai crime branch arrested him on March 3.

The HC was hearing a case filed by the state to confirm the death sentence. The hearing began on February 27, 2017, and all arguments were concluded on November 1. During the hearing, the bench of justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre allowed Sanap to prove if he was innocent. However, the judges dismissed the defence’s plea for leniency on the ground of Sanap’s good conduct as an undertrial. They said Sanap was “a menace to the society” and that he showed no possibility of reformation.

According to the bench, the “motivation of the perpetrator, vulnerability of the victim, enormity of the crime, the execution thereof were factors which normally weighed with the court in awarding the death sentence”.

The bench also referred to the 2013 Law Commission report. The report emphasised on ascertaining whether the person was capable of reformation and rehabilitation and whether he would be a threat to society or whether not granting the death penalty would send a wrong message to society.

The bench said while the 2012 gang-rape in Delhi — where the victim was a paramedical student — brought in a criminal amendment to make rape laws stricter, incidents such as the Shakti Mills rape and countless other cases of sexual assault continued to take place across the nation. “The increasing incidence (of crime against women) have led to the country’s entire womenfolk questioning their safety. They expect the legislature and the judiciary to restore their faith in the system,” the bench said.

The bench considered “aggravating” circumstances, which included commission of crime of rape and murder by Sanap. Secondly, the murder was committed to satisfy his lust and in a barbaric manner with an attempt to destroy the evidence. The bench found the murder proved Sanap’s total depravity and the absence of provocation to commit the crimes on a helpless woman who accompanied him so that he may drop her to her destination. The bench said the crime was so brutal that it shocked the conscience of the society and the judiciary.

The bench also referred to “mitigating” circumstances, which included Sanap’s age at the time of the crime, his criminal antecedents and chances of him not indulging in such a crime again. Based on these circumstances the bench said, “We have tried to see if there was any possibility of reformation. The accused is now 33 years old and at the time of the crime, he was 29. We have noticed that there is no remorse on his part.”

“We will appeal against the death sentence in the SC as there was a gross violation of section 273 of the Criminal Procedure Code, while recording Sanap’s evidence. Rather than Sanap excusing himself from being physically present in court at the time of recording evidence, he was kept away at the behest of the sessions judge and was only brought to court when the examination started. Hence, the death sentence is not valid,” said advocate Niteen Pradhan, who represented Sanap.

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First Published: Dec 21, 2018 01:16 IST

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