Minutes before 12 noon on Wednesday, October 13, there was a crash-like sound on the ground floor of the Kollam Additional Sessions Court. A small crowd had quickly formed as a man, convicted of murdering his wife by snakebite, stepped into the premises, swarmed by men in uniform. Among the hushed whispers were the names of Sooraj S Kumar, the guilty, and Uthra, the victim. Soorajâ€™s sentence for poisoning and murdering his 25-year-old wife Uthra in 2020 was going to be announced.
Mediapersons, who had gathered in the court for over an hour or two, hoisted up their cameras and formed a circle around the criminal and the police. As they were climbing the steps up to the third floor of the court, the police asked all those gathered there to clear the space. It was of no use. Forgetting COVID-19 and all its norms, the crowd thickened, curious members of the public among them. Sooraj, who was convicted of murdering his wife by snakebite on Monday, received no sympathy from the hundred-odd spectators.
"They rushed him in. We couldn't see what was happening," said a middle-aged woman to another, both trying to raise their heads above the surging crowd in front of the courtroom. Three of them had waited in the court premises just to hear the verdict in the rare and bizarre crime unheard of in Kerala so far. "Did he go in?"; "They are afraid men will attack Sooraj and so are covering him up like that." Anxious remarks floated in the air.
They grew louder when the verdict was announced on Wednesday. â€śLife sentenceâ€ť â€” the message was passed on from those closest to the courtroom to those farthest.
"This was seen as a rarest of rare case but considering his age and the fact that he has no previous crime records, they have made it two life sentences. And I accept the court order," said Crime Branch DySP A Ashokan, who had led the investigation.
Uthra's father and brother walked away without giving their reaction. They needed to talk to their advocate to decide if they should go for an appeal (for the death sentence), they said. A few women law students who had been waiting for two days for the verdict said they were disappointed that it was not death sentence, but that they respect the court's decision.