Ex-naval officer Jerome Mathew was Friday sentenced to 10 years in jail for the 2008 murder of TV producer Neeraj Grover for having an affair with his girlfriend Maria Monica Susairaj. The actress got a three-year term for destroying evidence, but would walk free for time done as an undertrial.
Sessions Judge M.W. Chandwani ordered Mathew and Susairaj to pay Rs.100,000 and Rs.50,000 respectively, to the victim's family as compensation, said advocate Sharif Sheikh, the counsel for the Kannada actress.
"Susairaj has already served more than three years as an undertrial. If she manages to pay up the compensation amount today (Friday), then she will be set free by evening," Sheikh told reporters shortly after the verdict.
However, Mathew will be behind bars for seven years as he has served around three years in jail as an undertrial.
If the duo fails to pay up the fine, then they will be required to spend another six months in jail, their lawyers said.
On Thursday, Judge Chandwani held Mathew guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and guilty of destroying evidence.
Susairaj was also found guilty, but only of the lighter charge of destroying evidence.
Mathew and Susairaj remained calm and composed as the verdict was pronounced, the lawyers said.
"Susairaj had maintained total silence throughout the trial... today, she just said 'Thank you' to me," Sheikh said.
Grover, a producer with a private television company, was killed by Mathew early morning of May 7, 2008, after he found him naked in Susairaj's apartment in Dheeraj Solitaire building here.
According to the prosecution, an angry Mathew abused and assaulted Grover and stabbed him with a kitchen knife. Mathew kept kicking and stabbing Grover even as Susairaj watched in horror but did not shout for help.
The next day, Susairaj went to a nearby mall and bought a huge suitcase, air-fresheners, plastic bags and bedsheets.
The two then chopped Grover's body into pieces and stuffed it into the bag, along with the blood stained bedsheets and curtains in her home.
Later, Susairaj and Mathew drove off to Manor in adjoining Thane district and burnt the body pieces and other articles.
Both the accused had been charged by the prosecution with murder, criminal conspiracy, common intention and causing disappearance of evidence.
Judge Chandwani, while delivering the verdict, rejected the prosecution’s conspiracy theory and held that Mathew had acted on the spur of the moment and that the killing was “not premeditated”.
“When he entered the room he was calm. This showed he did not have an intention (to kill). Obviously for a fiancee, in a situation where he finds a stranger with his partner, it would upset a prudent man and he would lose control,” the judge remarked, while convicting them under lighter charges, drawing protests from the victim’s family members.
Though the prosecution fought for charges of murder and sought a life term for Mathew, the court ruled that the case against him could be made out only under Section 304 (I) of the Indian Penal Code, which stipulates a life term or a minimum 10 years in jail.
Khan argued before the court that his client (Mathew) was a young naval officer and wanted to go back and serve the nation.
Moreover, he said the crime was not intentional and was done on the spur of the moment after seeing a stranger spending the night with his prospective wife.
Susairaj's lawyer, pleading for leniency, said that she was young and unmarried, and needed to settle in life. He said Susairaj was not a habitual offender and was a victim of circumstances.
Both Sheikh and Khan said that finally it was Susairaj's confession before the court which proved significant in the verdict.
Prosecution counsel R.V. Kini said the state would appeal against the judgement in the Bombay High Court.
Sheikh also said he would appeal against the verdict to "remove the stigma" on Susairaj, and Khan indicated he may consider appeal after getting a copy of the judgement next week.