Nearly two years after 25-year-old lawyer Pallavi Purkayastha was murdered at her Wadala flat, a sessions court Monday convicted the security guard of her housing complex, Sajjad Mughal alias Sajjad Pathan, for her murder on August 9, 2012. The court will hear the arguments on the quantum of punishment to be awarded to Mughal on July 3.
In a packed court room and in the presence of Purkayastha’s parents, judge Vrushali Joshi pronounced the 22-year-old Mughal guilty of murder, molestation and criminal trespass. The charges could attract a maximum punishment of death.
Around 11:45 am, the judge asked Mughal to stand in the dock and told him she had held him guilty under Sections 302 (murder), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 449 (house-trespass in order to commit offence punishable with death) of the Indian Penal Code.
Mughal nodded stoically and stepped away from the dock.
Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam requested the court for a date to hear the arguments over the quantum of sentence. The Judge then scheduled the next hearing of the case on July 3.
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In his statement to the police, Mughal had said he had sneaked into Purkayastha’s 16th-floor flat in the ‘Himalayan Heights’ building in Wadala using a set of duplicate keys and tried to force himself upon her.”However, when I forced myself upon her, she resisted and started screaming. At this time, I assaulted her with my knife I was carrying,” Mughal had said in the statement.
The police said Mughal had deliberately cut off the power supply to Purkayastha’s flat sometime before the murder, following which she had to call electricians and get it restored, giving Mughal the opportunity to enter her house.
The police had claimed that around 1:03 am, Purkayastha had sent a BBM message to her fiance Avik Sengupta (27), informing him about the power-cut. According to the prosecution, when Sengupta reached her home, Purkayastha was lying in a pool of blood. She was stabbed several times on her face, neck and abdomen.
Hours after killing Purkayastha, Mughal had called up two of his friends and allegedly boasted about the incident. The statements of the two friends are part of the chargesheet filed by the Mumbai Police Crime Branch.
Over a year after the incident Sengupta, the prime witness in the case who lived in the same flat with Purkayastha, died due to an inflammatory brain disorder. Sengupta, in his deposition, had reiterated what he had said in his police statement, that the accused Mughal was a pervert and had made Purkayastha uncomfortable several times in the past.
Mughal’s lawyer Wahab Khan had, on June 10, argued that it was Sengupta who had, in fact, killed Purkayastha in their flat. The defence had argued that the whereabouts of Sengupta on the night of the murder had not been probed sufficiently and that Mughal had been made a scapegoat.
The police arrested Sajjad at the Mumbai Central railway terminus the evening after Purkayastha’s body was found, before he could catch a train to Surat from where he had allegedly planned to flee to Jammu and Kashmir, his native state.
Purkayastha, daughter of an IAS officer, worked as a legal adviser with actor-director Farhan Akhtar’s firm Excel Entertainment Private Limited.