When 30-year -old Govindachamy alias Charly was first arrested on charges of raping and murdering 23-year-old Soumya, he was described as a mentally unbalanced beggar, and then a petty thief. However, the case soon took a surprising turn, when high-profile criminal lawyer, BA Aloor, appeared along with two other lawyers to defend Govindachamy. Aloor also represented Govindachamy in the Supreme Court, part of a team of four lawyers that got his sentence commuted from a death sentence to seven years’ imprisonment.
While Govindachamy or any other accused is free to hire any lawyer of their choice, what is apparent is that the case took a turn in the Supreme Court that most people had not expected. The prosecution was not able to prove the murder charge.
Twenty-three-year-old Soumya who worked as a salesgirl, was returning home by Ernakulam-Shoranur passenger train on February 1, 2011. Govindachami went to the ladies’ compartment where she was, robbed and attacked her. Soumya’s body was found in the forests near Vallathol railway station.
Originally convicted of rape and murder and awarded the death sentence by a Thrissur Fast Track Court, Govindachamy appealed the case in the Kerala High Court and the Supreme Court. While the HC upheld the sentence, the SC commuted the death term for murder charge to seven years’ imprisonment. The court on Thursday upheld life sentence in the rape case and said it was not convinced that Govindachamy had murdered Soumya.
Aloor, originally named Biju Antony, is a criminal lawyer based in Mumbai, and has appeared in a string of high-profile cases during his career. How could Govindachamy, a petty thief and a ‘beggar’ afford a lawyer like Aloor?
“How is that anyone’s concern? I charge Rs 5 lakh per criminal case and my duty is only to represent my client. Since I have represented him in three courts, the charges have exceeded Rs 15 lakhs, but that is not of anyone's concern,” Aloor told The News Minute after the SC judgment came.
When asked who approached him to represent Govindachamy, he was elusive. “There are certain people who wanted to help him. People who have been accused along with him in other cases who had approached me. The ‘mafia connection’ is a media creation,” he says.
When asked why the media should not be concerned that a petty criminal could afford a good lawyer and crush a case, Aloor retorted, “When crores were spent for Achutanandan in the Supreme Court, did the media question that? Why question this now?”
Aloor says the verdict clearly shows the prosecution had manufactured the case against his client. “This was a pre-decided case. People in Kerala were angry and wanted a scapegoat. The forensic evidence was completely fabricated in the case and that is why the prosecution could not prove the case,” he said.
Among the clients he has represented are Devinder Singh alias Bunty Chor, reported to have committed 500 burglaries across the country. He is currently representing the men arrested for murdering rationalist and thinker Narendra Dabholkar.
At the time he was representing Govindachamy in the Kerala High Court, Aloor was also fighting another high profile rape and murder,representing one of the men accused in the death of Nayana Poojari, a software engineer, in Pune.
Most recently, Aloor caused a minor stir when it was reported that the lawyer will reportedly represent Ameerul Islam in the Jisha rape and murder case. Previously, Aloor had also claimed that he would represent Ajmal Kasab, convicted and hanged for the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai.
When Aloor’s appearance on behalf of Govindachamy gained media attention, the lawyer reportedly created more controversy when he revealed that he had appeared in the case after being engaged by “a network of criminals from Tamil Nadu with links to the Mumbai underground activities.”
Govindachamy was arrested in February 2011and is simultaneously serving sentences in cases of robbery and assaulting a jail convict. Though the man had almost eight cases against him in Tamil Nadu, he was known as Charley Thomas in TN police records.