The Karnataka High Court recently confirmed the conviction and sentence of an advocate for the murder of a lady advocate. The murder took place one afternoon in 2010, outside Court Hall no. 4 of the Karnataka High Court.
The appeal filed against the trial court verdict sentencing advocate SL Rajappa for the murder of advocate Naveena came up before a High Court Bench of Justices KN Phaneendra and HB Prabhakara Sastry.
Both advocates were alumni of the same law college and practicing as advocates in Bangalore. They were also said to have been in a relationship. However, Rajappa later hatched a plan to murder the victim on suspicion that she was involved in an affair with her senior colleague.
On the afternoon of July 7, 2010, Rajappa stabbed the victim on her chest and neck in the Karnataka High Court building. The victim died on the spot.
Rajappa then attempted to commit suicide by stabbing himself and consuming poison in a gents’ toilet nearby. However, the police was able to capture him from the toilet before he could kill himself. He was thereafter treated at a hospital.
An FIR was registered against him for the murder and his suicide attempt under Sections 302 and 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). At trial, Rajappa pleaded that he was not guilty. The trial court however sentenced him to life imprisonment on finding him guilty.
On appeal, the High Court has now confirmed this verdict on finding that the witness testimony in the case was uniform and trustworthy evidence. Several advocates, security personnel and police at the High Court on the fateful day testified to having witnessed the crime, either as it happened or shortly after the victim had died.
Inter alia, the possible explanation for how Rajappa managed to commit the crime within the Court premises has also been noted as follows in the judgement, based on the witness statement given by the Police Inspector of security at the High Court,
“The witness [police inspector] has also stated that the security Police in the High Court examine the visitors/litigants coming to the High Court. However, since the Advocate would be in a hurry and show hurriedness for attending to their urgent matters, they do not co- operate for security check. Even though the said non- co-operation by the Advocates has been brought to the notice of the Registrar but, the Police are directed by the Registry to adjust to the situation.”
The High Court proceeded to place substantial reliance on the witness testimony forwarded by two advocates who were present near Court Hall 4 when the murder took place i.e. Senior Advocate H Subramanya Jois and his junior, Advocate Ranganatha Jois. The murder took place as Senior Counsel Jois was being briefed on a case by his junior. Apart from witnessing the murder, they also informed the Court that they saw Rajappa rush into the gents’ toilet, which they bolted from the outside to prevent his escape.
Another factor prompting the Court to affirm Rajappa’s guilt in the matter was a death note recovered from his person, which the Court found established motive in the case. The Bench proceeded to conclude,
“In the instant case, the prosecution by producing cogent evidence including Exs.P60 and P63 has been successfully able to prove the ‘motive’ behind the commission of the alleged crime by the accused. It has also by leading the evidence of PW-6 [Senior Advocate Jois] and PW-7 [Advocate Jois] clearly established that, the eye witnesses have witnessed the incident of the accused barbarically stabbing and killing the lady Advocate in the corridors of this High Court near Court Hall No.4 in a broad day-light.”
The Court also proceeded to dismiss the defence presented for Rajappa, including that his acts were prompted by sudden provocation owing to which he was entitled to leniency. The Court pointed out that there is,
“… no iota of evidence to infer that there was any provocation for the accused from any one including the deceased, to provoke him to react in such a manner to inflict multiple stab injuries upon the deceased. As such, the act of the accused does not find a place in any of the Exceptions to Section 300 of IPC, rather, it squarely fall within the ambit of definition of ‘murder’ as defined under the said Section.”
Even otherwise, the Court found that no evidence was presented to back up the defences made in Rajappa’s favour. The Court noted,
“…all the defence of the accused were just confined only in the form of suggestions made to a Doctor and the Investigating Officer without making any effort to establish that the said defence are probable ones and introduces some suspicion in the case of the prosecution.”
Therefore, the Court dismissed Rajappa’s appeal and confirmed the trial court’s conviction and sentence.