As a single-bench judge delivered the verdict on the gangrape and murder of 30-year-old Samata (name changed) in Telangana’s Adilabad district, the huge crowd gathered at the special fast track court could not hold back their emotions.
The court on Thursday sentenced the three accused to death and imposed a fine of Rs 26,000, a little over two months after the incident.
The accused — Shaik Babu, Shaik Shaboddin, and Shaik Makdum — who were lodged in the district jail, were brought in handcuffs with armed guards on each side. The family of the woman stood in the court hall, along with their relatives. Outside, Dalit organisations, civil rights groups and the media awaited the judgement amidst heavy security.
Asifabad District Superintendent of Police (DSP) A Satyanarayana, District Superintendent of Police M Malla Reddy and other senior officials were also present.
As soon as the hearing began, Justice MG Priyadarshini went through the arguments of the prosecutor and the defendants, and informed the visibly-nervous trio that their 'brutal crime' would attract a death penalty.
After a brief break, the judge read out the judgement and pronounced the verdict, even as the accused pleaded for mercy, claiming that they had children to care for.
Several relatives were seen with folded palms outside the court, thanking the court and police for a speedy trial.
Crying softly as he spoke to reporters outside the court, Samata's husband said, "Our children are unable to digest that their mother is gone. Maybe they will continue to feel sad about her. But I'll tell them that her killers were punished, and console them. I will raise them on my own."
One of the family members thanked the officers and the state government for standing with them and ensuring speedy justice in the case. He added that he hoped the case would set a precedent for other similar cases.
Samata, who hailed from Nirmal district's Khanapur region, worked as a street hawker and sold cosmetics and other small items. She hailed from the Budagajangam community, which is categorised as Scheduled Caste and is one of the most marginalised groups in Telangana.
Her body was found in a village in Lingala mandal of Asifabad district in the early hours of November 25, a day after the crime.
Following the verdict, the District SP said that the three accused brutally gangraped the victim, and murdered her with a knife as they did not want her to reveal the crime.
"The forensic reports showed that her ribs were broken, showing the level of the atrocity against her," SP Malla Reddy told reporters.
"We had collected all the evidence and questioned all the witnesses related to the case. We had also collected physical evidence. DNA reports from the forensic tests also matched with samples collected from the accused. Within 20 days, we finished the investigation and filed a chargesheet," he added.
Stating that the death penalty was granted due to the strength of their evidence, the SP thanked the government of Telangana for setting up a special court for the case.
After Samata's death, protests erupted in the district, with many demanding a speedy trial in the case to ensure justice for the family and victim.
The convicts can now appeal the judgement in a higher court.