Two taxi drivers were on Monday awarded the death sentence by a Delhi court for killing Australian tourist Dawn Emilie Griggs, after gangraping and robbing her, in 2004.
"Jyotish Prasad and Ashish Kumar, for the offence of brutal murder of the Australian tourist, you be hanged till death," Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Kumar said, pronouncing the sentence in a packed courtroom.
The court also imposed a fine of Rs 3,000 each on the two convicts who were held guilty of gangrape, robbery, destruction of evidence and common intention. The court had convicted the two accused on August 2.
Griggs was found murdered in a deserted area in New Delhi on March 17, 2004 within hours of landing at the Indira Gandhi International Airport from Hong Kong.
Besides awarding the death penalty for murder, the court also handed down the convicts rigorous life imprisonment for gangraping the tourist, who had come to India to join a meditation course.
On pronouncement of the verdict, convict Prasad's mother started crying inconsolably inside the courtroom. "My poor and innocent son is wrongly being awarded the death penalty," she said.
Griggs, who landed in Delhi from Hong Kong on a Cathay Pacific Flight in the wee hours of March 17, 2004 for enrolling for a meditation course with the Brahmakumari Aishwarya Vidyalaya, had taken a pre-paid taxi from IGI airport and was later found murdered.
The court convicted Prasad, 28, and Kumar, in his early 30's, for the various offences in a case which hinged on circumstantial evidence.
As there was no eye-witness to the gruesome killing, the prosecution had relied upon circumstantial as well as forensic evidence, including the DNA reports of the convicts, to prove its charges against them.
The police had traced the duo by scrutinising the records of the pre-paid taxi booth at the airport. Prasad was arrested on the date of the incident while Kumar was apprehended on his disclosure on March 21.
During the arguments on the quantum of sentence, the prosecution had sought the gallows for the two cab drivers, describing the offence as a 'stigma' on the country.
Public Prosecutor Vinod Kumar said that both the convicts had not only murdered a foreign tourist but also killed the trust of a foreign nation. The offence is a stigma on the country, which believes in the policy of 'Atithi Devo Bhava' (guest is god), he said.
Vehemently opposing the prosecutor's plea, defence counsel Vikas Arora, who was appointed amicus curiae (friend of court), had contended that different parameters can't be applied just because a foreign national was killed.
In a case based on circumstantial evidence, death penalty cannot be awarded, he had pleaded. He also said that the convicts were not habitual offenders and it could not be said that they cannot be reformed.
The defence counsel also claimed that no specific role in the execution of the crime had been attributed to the convicts in the court's judgment holding them guilty in the case.