AT exactly 5.25 pm on Tuesday, when the judge ruled that all the three convicts in the Nayana Pujari rape and murder case be hanged till death, there was resounding applaud from lawyers, activists and others present in the packed courtroom. They seemed to be waiting desperately, like scores of other Puneites, for the “right judgement” which finally came their way.
As word about the death penalty spread, scenes outside the courtroom were no different, with lawyers and litigants animatedly discussing the judgement. “Though delayed, this is justice for Nayana, finally…,” said a lawyer.
Before Special Judge L L Yenkar announced the death sentence, the three convicts, who had been sitting in the dock all along, were asked to stand up, as per custom. No sooner had the judge read out the brief judgement, especially the phrase “mare paryent phashi” (to be hanged till death), that the face of one of the convicts, Vishwas Kadam, broke into a wry smile as he turned his face towards the police personnel who had formed a protective ring around the convicts.
Kadam, who was sporting a green t-shirt and blue jeans, had had a wry smile on his face even minutes earlier, when he glanced at a police constable standing nearby, as the judge was preparing to deliver the judgement.
His eyes blood-shot, Kadam quietly took his seat and displayed no emotion. After the death sentence was announced, he stared back at those who were trying to scour his face, looking for a reaction. Kadam was the only one among the three convicts who refused to bow his head; instead, he kept staring at one and all.
Yogesh Raut, one of the other two convicts in the case, appeared stunned by the sentence; he slumped in his chair and broke down. Covering his face with his hands, Raut kept looking down and brushing off his tears. Before the sentence, he had remained glum, spending most of the time staring at the wooden floor.
The third convict, Mahesh Thakur, also spend most of his time in the courtroom with his head down, staring at the floor. He barely looked up during the court proceedings, finally doing so when the judge asked the three convicts to stand up.
When the proceedings came to a halt at 2 pm for a 45-minute lunch break, the three convicts remained seated. They did not even ask for a glass of water for three-and-a-half hours, till 5.30 pm, even as those present in the chock-a-bloc courtroom continued to down sips of water.
Responding to the judgment, Nayana’s husband Abhijit Pujari said even after they had been sentenced to death, the three men had hardly betrayed any signs of remorse.
“Being incarcerated for over seven years doesn’t seem to have changed them one bit. They looked as cruel as they were…,” said Abhijit, adding, “we are happy with the judgement. Such cruel mindset deserve nothing but death”.
Nayana’s family expressed hope that proceedings would be speeded up in higher courts and the death sentences would be carried out as soon as possible. “We are satisfied with the judgment. We hope that in all other such cases in the country, the criminals get the death penalty. This case should set a precedent for other courts in the country. We hope they are hanged soon,” said Manisha Ganbavale, Nayana’s sister.
Abhijit said he would soon launch the Nayana Pujari Memorial Trust, which would work for the safety of women, especially working women, in Pune and other cities.