A women’s court in Mumbai on Friday sentenced to death a 29-year-old man found guilty of robbing, raping, burning and killing Esther Anuhya, a techie from Andhra Pradesh, on 5 January last year.
Terming it as a “rarest of rare cases”, Special Judge Vrushali Joshi pronounced the verdict against Chandrabhan Sudam Sanap, who was found guilty of multiple crimes on 27 October.
Judge Joshi observed: “This is the rarest of rare cases… For the murder charge, the accused shall be hanged by the neck till death.”
The women’s court also sentenced Sanap to life imprisonment under the Indian Penal Code Section 376A (rape), and awarded 10 years’ imprisonment under Section 376(2) (M) for persistent sexual assault.
The 23-year-old victim’s father Jonathan Prasad and brother Thomas Noble welcomed the verdict.
“Justice has been done and we are grateful to the police, courts and media for taking up the cause so diligently…It will serve as a deterrent to others,” Prasad told the media outside the court.
The woman had arrived from Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh at the Lokmanya Tilak Railway Terminus after a Christmas break to rejoin work at the Tata Consultancy Services in Goregaon, Mumbai.
The incident happened after the train arrived early that morning around 5 a.m. at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus and Sanap, posing as a cabbie, offered to drop her at her hostel in south Mumbai. They negotiated an amount of Rs.300 for the commute.
However, when she walked out of the terminus with her luggage, she found Sanap had neither a taxi nor an autorickshaw but a motorcycle.
When Esther refused to sit on the motorcycle pillion, he asked her to make a call and inform her family about his details and the vehicle registration number.
As there was no other form of commute available at that hour and though she did not have balance in her mobile, she pretended to make a call to her family before accepting the motorbike ride.
En route, he stopped the bike on the service road near Kanjurmarg suburb, on the pretext that petrol in the motorcycle was exhausted.
On the foggy wintry morning on the deserted highway, he dragged Esther into the bushes and attempted to rape her.
As she strongly resisted, an enraged Sanap banged her head repeatedly with a stone and strangled her with her dupatta.
Later, he took some petrol from his motorbike and attempted to burn her in the thick bushes beside the Eastern Express Highway near Kanjurmarg.
He fled the scene after grabbing her bag and a strolley which contained her laptop and other belongings. Sanap was arrested from Nashik on March 3 and charged with the crime.
Meanwhile, unable to communicate with Esther, her anxious father, Jonathan Prasad lodged a missing person complaint with Vijayawada Railway Police before coming to Mumbai and lodging another complaint with the Kurla Railway Police.
Mumbai Police recovered a charred and decomposed body in Kanjurmarg on 16 January. Esther’s identity was established on the basis of a ring she was wearing.
Later, Sanap was arrested and the Special Public Prosecutor Raja Thakare examined 39 witnesses, including two who said they had seen the accused and the victim together. This clinched the case against Sanap.
Mumbai Police spokesperson Dhananjay Kulkarni said on Friday that the prosecution successfully secured the conviction under all sections of the law under which the accused was tried.