Leaning against the rails in the corridor opposite the third-floor courtroom at Keralaâ€™s additional sessions court, stood five women law students in their third year of the course. In their black and white uniform, they stood waiting to hear the verdict of the Uthra murder case. All five students hoped that the maximum punishment would be awarded to the convict, Sooraj S Kumar, found guilty of murdering his wife Uthra by forcing a snake to bite her.
Leeya, Aasha, Vrinda, Karthika and Megha had stood at the same spot on Monday, October 11, when the court, at the end of the proceedings, found Sooraj guilty of all charges. Twice, he had used snakes to bite his 25-year-old wife, once at his paternal house and once at hers. The second time, she succumbed to the venomous bites of a cobra.
"It is what we expected but we had still hoped for the death sentence for such a heinous crime," says Leeya, one of the students. The others agree. "It is a bit of a disappointment," agrees Aasha. However, they respect the court ruling, they add.
"It is such a rare case and should never happen again. The verdict should make that clear. We had hoped that the guilty would get maximum punishment," says Leeya.
However, this was not the rarest of rare cases, the Kollam court held. The court has cited three reasons for deciding so â€” one, Soorajâ€™s age, the fact that he is still in his youth, second that he does not have criminal antecedents and thirdly, that his chances of reformation cannot be taken away.
The case, however, is a first-of-its-kind in Kerala. There have been reports of the case being included in the syllabus for law students in the subject of criminology. It will be a topic called homicidal snakebite, using a snake as a murder weapon, reports said. However, the five students say there has been no such intimation. They are here of their own interest. Curiously, there are fewer male students around.
"We were told about another POCSO case that's happening in another courtroom. But we wanted to attend this one. We know its importance. It's the first such case in the state," Aasha says.