An Indian court has served a citizen double life jail term after he killed his wife using a deadly cobra to carry out the task.
The Kollam Additional Sessions Court in Kerala, India, on Wednesday, imposed the double life sentence on Sooraj S Kumar for killing his wife Uthra, using a cobra. Sooraj had killed Uthra on May 7, 2020, by letting the cobra bite her in her sleep.
The murder went viral and became known as the ‘Uthra murder case’ garnering international attention.
The court awarded the convict a life sentence on charges of Sections 302 (murder) in a case rated by the prosecution as ‘rarest of the rare’ and Section 307 (attempt to murder) as well as 10 years rigorous imprisonment under Section 328 (causing harm using poison) and seven years imprisonment under Section 201 (causing disappearance of evidence) of the IPC along with a fine of Rs 5 lakh.
The trial court may have stopped short of awarding the convict the death penalty due to his young age and no past criminal antecedents, underlining that there are opportunities for him to reform.
It, however, made it clear that the convict would undergo jail sentences of 10 years and 7 years consecutively before starting his double life sentence.
S Harishankar, investigating officer and former Kollam Rural SP told newsmen that he was satisfied with the court verdict.
“The quantum of sentence is decided by judicial discretion and has a lot of factors to keep in mind. The court has already found the accused guilty on all four charges arrayed by the investigating officers and the prosecution. Our efforts end there. We cannot comment on the quantum of sentence,” he said.
Manimeghalai, the victim’s mother who monitored the proceedings of the trial from her home in Anchal in Kollam district, expressed sadness over the verdict saying she was expecting the court to award the death penalty to Sooraj.
“These are the flaws of the judiciary as there are loopholes. People get away using those loopholes. Had the extreme punishment been given, it would have acted as a deterrent for others to desist from doing crimes. We will go in appeal,” the aggrieved mother said.
The incident dates back to May 7, 2020 when Uthra’s mother found the young mother of a one-year-old, dead following a snake bite at her home in Anchal.
Manimeghalai said her daughter and Suraj had gone to their room after dinner. On that May morning, Suraj, who was a late riser, woke up early and went out. When Uthara did not wake up, her mother went to her room and found Uthara lying lifeless.
The snake which was still in the room, was killed by Uthara’s parents when they returned home from the hospital after their daughter was declared dead.
It was initially dismissed as a snakebite death by the local police. However, the fact that Uthra had earlier been bitten by a viper on March 2, 2020 at her in-laws’ home, requiring her to be hospitalised, and a complaint of foul-play in her death by her parents, the police high command launched a detailed investigation.
After the police launched a thorough investigation led by then Kollam Rural SP Harishanker, it was found that Sooraj, an employee of a private financial institution, had painstakingly plotted the murder of Uthra by getting the snake to bite her.
The police arrested Suraj on May 24, and his associate Suresh, a professional snake catcher for hatching a conspiracy to use a snake to kill Uthra.
According to the police, Suraj purchased both the viper and the cobra from the snake handler with the intent of killing his wife and making it seem as a natural snake-bite.
Uthra was hospitalized for 50 after the first bite by the viper in March, 2020, Sooraj managed to repeat the deadly act with the cobra two months later.
The police version said the couple had a strained relationship while Uthra’s parents alleged that she was regularly harassed by her in-laws over dowry.
The Kollam Crime Branch had filed a 1000-page charge sheet in the case, detailing the manner in which Sooraj carried out the murder, using scientific and circumstantial evidence.
Suresh had given Suraj the snakes, according to the police. He first provided a poisonous viper for Rs 10,000. After the first attempt failed, Suresh supplied him a cobra for Rs 10,000.
The court handed the one-year-old son of the couple over to the parents of Uthra.