By: Meghna Yelluru
A local sessions court Monday sentenced Sajjad Mughal alias Sajjad Pathan (24), the security guard convicted a few days ago for the 2012 murder of 25-year-old lawyer Pallavi Purkayastha, to life imprisonment while observing that the case did not fall under the “rarest of the rare” category.
On June 30, the court had held Mughal guilty under Sections 302 (murder), 354 (assaulting a 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, who stood in the dock when special judge Vrushali read out the sentence around 1.50 pm, pleaded with the court to reduce his punishment. The judge, however, told him he was being awarded the “minimum” punishment for the offences he had committed. Joshi told him he had been held guilty under the sections that “attract life-imprisonment for the rest of his natural life.”
While the prosecution argued for a death sentence, the court said, “Considering the balance of mitigating and aggravating circumstances, the case does not fall under the rarest of rare category.”
Purkayastha’s parents Atanu and Sumita, both IAS officers, had flown down from Delhi to attend the court on the day of sentencing. They said they felt let down by the court’s decision.
Fighting tears, Sumita said, “If he (Mughal) is not sentenced to death, then who should be? The defence had argued that such crimes are common, but for us, it was just one daughter we had and who died.” “The fight does not end here” Atanu said, adding he would consult his lawyers about further legal action.
“The convicts in the Shakti Mills gangrape case were given the death sentence, but when it is a murder, the convict is awarded life,” Atanu said. “I do not think people of any society would now feel safe, because other security guards might get similar ideas. People would continue feeling unsafe,” he said.
Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, who had argued for a death sentence, said the court’s judgment was strong and could serve as a deterrent for such crimes in the future. Purkayastha was stabbed to death on August 9, 2012 at her flat at Himalayan Heights building in Wadala, where Mughal was employed as a security guard.
According to the prosecution, Mughal had disconnected the power supply in Purkayastha’s 16th-floor flat after ensuring she was alone. He had entered the flat with the intention of taking advantage of the situation, but slit her throat after she resisted his sexual advances. The prosecution had argued that the accused had taken not just one, but two lives.
Over a year after the incident, Avik Sengupta (27), Pallavi’s fiance and a prime witness in the case, died due to inflammatory brain disorder. Purkayastha worked as a legal adviser with actor-director Farhan Akhtar’s firm Excel Entertainment Private Limited.
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