Dressed in a grey shirt and blue jeans, 24-year-old Ameerul Islam walked into the Principal Sessions Courtroom in Ernakulam at 11am on Tuesday morning, surrounded by a team of policemen.
He had arrived at the court complex minutes earlier from the Kakkanad jail, where he has been lodged since July last year.
Ameerul, who was working as a labourer in Ernakulam's Perumbavoor, was the lone accused in the rape and murder of a 30-year-old Dalit woman named Jisha.
Ameerul Islam being brought to court
The migrant labourer from Assam betrayed no emotions as he stood in the accused box, looking out at the packed courtroom.
The tension in the air was palpable, as Jisha's mother Rajeshwari also sat in the courtroom, hoping for the court to pronounce Ameerul guilty.
Just 20 minutes later, the court pronounced the verdict, holding Ameerul guilty of raping and murdering Jisha.
As the judge â€“ Anil Kumar â€“ read out the verdict, Ameerul was called to the front of the court, where he stood next to a lawyer who would translate the verdict for him in Hindi.
While the court found him guilty under Sections 449 (House trespass), 342 (Wrongful confinement), 376 (Rape), 376 (a) (Causing death/ resulting in persistent vegetative state), and 302 (Murder), Ameerul's forehead creased as he tried to decipher the proceedings. When a lawyer translated the verdict to him in Hindi, Ameerul said, "I haven't done anything, I don't know anything about this. I was just picked up by the police."
Visibly irritated, Ameerul continued: "I don't know anything, there must be a proper investigation."
Though the court found him guilty under various IPC sections, it did not convict him under Section 201 of the IPC (destroying evidence) or under sections of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. The court said that it was convinced that Ameerul attacked Jisha without prior knowledge about her caste. As far as the destruction of evidence was concerned, the charge could not be proven.
For her part, Rajeshwari looked visibly satisfied with the verdict. "I am really happy about the verdict. I hope that nobody goes through what my family has gone through," Rajeshwari said after the hearing ended.
Special Public Prosecutor NK Unnikrishnan speaks to the media
The prosecution will, on Wednesday, argue that Ameerul must be given death penalty.
"We will argue for the maximum punishment, which is the death penalty. This is the rarest of the rare case, where the accused resorted to brutal violence when Jisha resisted his efforts to rape her," Special Public Prosecutor NK Unnikrishnan told the media after the verdict.
This is in line with Rajeshwariâ€™s wishes. When she first arrived at the court, Rajeshwari told mediapersons that she wants her daughterâ€™s killer to be hanged to death.
"I am hopeful that my daughter gets justice. This case should not meet the fate of other unfortunate rape and murder cases in which the accused were left free to roam around", Rajeshwari had said before walking into the court.
Jisha's mother Rajeshwari speaks to the media before the trial
Even as the court is set to pronounce the quantum of punishment on Wednesday, Ameerul's lawyer BA Aloor told TNM that he will appeal against the Sessions Court verdict.
"We will challenge this verdict after the quantum of sentence is pronounced tomorrow," Aloor said.