Arguments for the quantum of punishment to be handed out to Chandrabhan Sanap, who was convicted Tuesday for the 2014 rape and murder of software engineer Esther Anuhya, began in the City Civil and Sessions Court on Wednesday.
Sanap was seen wiping his tears with a large red handkerchief as Judge Vrushali V Joshi informed him that two of the offences for which he had been convicted could send him to the gallows.
“Do you have anything to say?” Judge Joshi asked Sanap after reading out that he faced death or life imprisonment for committing murder (Section 302), death or life imprisonment for causing death while committing rape (Section 376a), no less than seven years’ imprisonment for committing robbery with intention to cause death (Section 397), and seven years imprisonment for abduction (Section 363) and destruction of evidence (Section 201) under the Indian Penal Code.
As Sanap remained quiet and continued to sob, the judge ordered him to take a seat several rows back.
Later, his lawyer Advocate Prakash Salsangikar argued that Sanap had shown remorse after committing the crime as he conducted a “shanti puja” at the home of a priest in Trimabakeshwar, telling the latter that he had committed a sin towards a woman.
“The prosecution’s evidence shows that the accused wants to reform. He asked Pandit Prasad Shukla if he could reform him. I pray for the minimum possible punishment,” Salsangikar prayed.
Esther Anuhya, the 24-year-old techie from Andhra Pradesh who worked in Mumbai, was killed by Sanap on January 5, 2014, and her decomposed body was found in Bhandup off the Eastern Express Highway on January 16, more than 10 days later. Sanap had offered to drop Esther at her hostel in Andheri West from Lokmanya Tilak Terminus and she had agreed. He raped and killed her after she protested realising that he was going the wrong way.
Special Public Prosecutor Raja Thakare admitted that Sanap could say there was no circumstantial evidence against him, but subsequently sought to dismantle each of the mitigating circumstances under which Sanap has sought refuge. He said Sanap’s age (early 30s), his now-cured tuberculosis infection, his old parents, a wife and two young children, and that fact that jail authorities did not have any complaints against him, should not let him escape maximum punishment.
Sanap’s three marriages, Thakare argued, showed he was a “womaniser”. “He committed rape to satisfy his lust. He has lost the right to live in society,” he said.
The crime, Thakare added, had put fear in the minds of Indian women. “Violent crimes against women are on the increase. It is not good for a healthy society,” he said. “Here was a working woman, a young lady expecting to be engaged, who had left her parental abode and was travelling alone. There are no words to console her family. What must have been the condition of the father when he discovered his daughter’s mutilated body?” Thakare argued.
Describing the crime as “heinous” and the decision to pour petrol and burn Anuhya’s body as “diabolical”, Thakare said Sanap had “betrayed the confidence of Indian women”.
He added, “The accused betrayed the confidence that the victim had placed in him.
Here, he was like a brother who would drop her for less consideration.”
Thakare also said the evidence of Nandkishor Sahu, Sanap’s neighbour in Kanjurmarg, showed the latter’s “aggressive nature and criminal tendency”. Sahu, whose motorbike had been used in the crime, had deposed in court that Sanap had threatened him after he discovered Anuhya’s body in the bushes in Bhandup.
The cold-blooded murder of an innocent woman, Thakare added, in an isolated place before sunrise added to the gravity of the offence.
“If working women feel unsafe at the hands of such people, we fail in our delivery of justice,” Thakare said, concluding that “there cannot be any other option but to award the death penalty”.
Defence counsel Salsangikar countered that the prosecution had brought up Sanap’s marital history only to “tarnish his image”.
He closed his arguments saying, “From the circumstantial evidence, it is clear that is not a rarest of rare but a common case.” The court will pronounce Sanap’s quantum of punishment Friday.