For those who have been following some of the most talked about crime cases in Kerala in the recent past, Mohan Raj would be a familiar name.

An image of senior lawyer Mohanraj
news Crime Friday, December 02, 2022 - 19:37

“This is not my personal success. It is the success of the Indian judiciary,” senior lawyer G Mohanraj told TNM, standing outside the Thiruvananthapuram district court complex, on Friday, December 2, just moments after the court found two people guilty of rape and murder of a Latvian woman in March 2018. Mohanraj was the Special Public Prosecutor in the case. This was not the only high-profile case where Mohanraj secured a conviction. He was also the public prosecutor in the Uthara murder case as well as in the dowry death case of 22-year-old Vismaya, both of which led to convictions of the accused. While Uthara had been killed by her husband using a venomous snake, Vismaya was the victim of dowry and domestic violence and died by suicide. 

The murder of the 33-year-old Latvian woman drew media attention from outside Kerala as well, given that the victim was a foreign tourist. When asked whether all the media attention and public scrutiny, along with the prolonging of the case added to the already existing pressure, Mohanraj replied, “There was no pressure. Being an Indian, it was my duty to fight for justice and ensure that the woman and her family get that justice. That was what I was focussing on.” 

The trial which happened at the Additional Sessions Court of Thiruvananthapuram was challenging as two of the key witnesses turned hostile. The prosecution had to rely heavily on scientific evidence to make their case, ensuring that the two accused men were found guilty of all charges, including rape, murder, abduction and destruction of evidence.

It was in May 2020 that 25-year-old Uthara was found dead at her parents’ home in Kerala’s Kollam district. A year later, in October 2021, the Additional Sessions Court in Kollam sentenced her husband Sooraj S Kumar to life imprisonment for murdering Uthara, using a snake as the murder weapon. 

In his media interviews following the verdict of the case, Mohanraj had said that analysing judgments in similar snake bite cases in the past from various parts of the country was crucial to the case. His team chose two such cases to focus on – one in Nagpur and another in Indore – both where the prosecution teams were unable to prove their case. After studying these cases, it became clear that proving the snake bite was unnatural was crucial as the husband had denied the crime. In Uthara’s case, the police and the team of lawyers focused on three things: prove that the cobra did not enter the house naturally, that it was provoked to bite the woman and a deep study of the fang width to show that it was a forced bite. 

While it was scientific evidence that Mohanraj and team focused on in Uthara’s case to make sure her husband Sooraj was convicted, in Vismaya’s case they wove together a coherent narrative using witnesses and digital evidence.

Vismaya Nair, a student of Ayurveda medicine, was found dead at her marital home in Kollam in June 2021. She was 22 years old and hailed from Nilamel, also in Kollam district. Her death came days after she had sent messages to her cousin telling him that her husband Kiran Kumar had brutally beaten her many times over a car that was given as part of her dowry. A year later, on May 23, her husband Kiran Kumar was convicted for her death after the court found him guilty under Sections 306 (abetment of suicide), 498A (cruelty by husband or a relative), and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code.

Mohanraj, who was the Special Public Prosecutor in the case, faced the challenge of establishing that what was considered as an unnatural death or a case of death by suicide was a result of dowry related harassment. The police retrieved thousands of calls and messages from Vismaya and her husband Kiran Kumar’s phones. These records showed that the harassment started exactly a day after the wedding as Kiran was unhappy with the car given as dowry. As harassment is mostly a crime committed in secrecy, in this case within the walls of their house, the prosecution meticulously put together these calls and lined up a string of witnesses who had known about the harassment at various stages.  

In an interview to a YouTube channel, Mohanraj spoke about how he felt emotional in court recalling the physical violence inflicted on Vismaya. “I know I am doing my job, but talking about her suffering in court affected me.”

Vismaya case: Audio clips helped secure husband Kiran Kumar’s conviction

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.