Five years after Mumbai youths Keenan and Reuben were brutally murdered while trying to save their women companions from a group of hooligans harassing them, a special court on Thursday sentenced all the four accused in the case to life imprisonment.
Special Women’s Court Judge Vrushali Joshi said the accused will be in jail for the remainder of their life.
She held the accused -- Jitendra Rana, Sunil Bodh, Satish Dulhaj and Dipak Tival --guilty of murder, outraging the modesty of women and other charges of the Indian Penal Code, in a case which sparked outrage and debate about the safety of women in public places.
Keenan Santos, 24, and Reuben Fernandez, 29, were stabbed by eve-teasers after a scuffle at Amboli in suburban Andheri on October 20, 2011.
The victims were attacked when they tried to shield their women companions from a group of men who harassed, abused and misbehaved with them outside an eatery in suburban Andheri.
The group, after retreating, returned to the spot with over 10 aides and brutally assaulted Keenan and Reuben in full public view.
Keenen’s father Valerian Santos welcomed the verdict, saying it was a “victory for all” but regretted the delay in getting the justice.
“I am not saying that the culprits should be caught and sent to gallows immediately. I am only saying that the judicial system should be speeded up”, he said, recalling the emotional breakdown of Chief Justice of India over such delay.
Ujjwal Nikam, Special public prosecutor, said all charges of the prosecution have been proved in the case.
“There is direct evidence to show that the accused were eve-teasing and molesting girls when the victims tried to stop it. This is a pre-determined murder and the accused had even threatened them with their life and had come back with weapons to attack them”, Nikam said.
Nikam said the success in the case largely owed to the victims of harassment. “The testimony of the two girls bolstered our case and their deposition was very detailed,” he said.
He, however, did not press for capital punishment for the accused as the conspiracy charge against them was not proved and the case did not fall under the category of the ‘rarest of the rare’.
Valerian, who looked calm and composed after hearing the verdict, said, “Today all I can say is that the verdict is a victory to all. This victory is not mine, this is Keenan’s and Reuben’s victory which I have been hoping to give them as a present. Keenan’s birthday has gone in March, I had hoped to gift him this,” said Valerian.
“I am happy that the court has granted life imprisonment to them. I am also happy that the molestation section (charge) was also applied,” he said
While Keenan succumbed to his injuries the same day, Reuben died 10 days later.
Police arrested all the four accused a day after the incident.
In October, 2012, the court framed charges against the accused for murder, conspiracy and molestation. In the trial the prosecution examined 245 witnesses.
The incident had shocked the city after the youngsters were brutally assaulted in full public view as bystanders and hotel staffers rendered no help.