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Grover murder: Maria freed, Jerome get 10 yrs term
Mumbai, Jul 1, (AGENCIES):
Published on 1 Jul. 2011 11:01 PM IST
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Kannada actress Maria Susairaj could walk free soon after she was awarded a maximum three years' imprisonment which she has already served during trial and her boyfriend and former Navy officer Emile Jerome got a 10-year jail term in the macabre murder of Neeraj Grover.
A day after absolving Maria(30) and Jerome(28) of murder charge, Sessions court Judge N W Chandwani while pronouncing the quantum of sentence today also ordered the two to together pay a fine of Rs 1,50,000 and that the recovered amount be paid to the victim's father.
Maria can walk free anytime and Jerome will have to be behind bars only for seven more years since they have already been in jail for three years as undertrials.
"Giving him (Jerome) ten years would serve justice", Sessions Judge N W Chandwani said while pronouncing the sentence to the former Navy officer held guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under section 304 IPC. Jerome was also sentenced to three years imprisonment for causing disappearance of evidence under section 201 IPC. Both the sentences would run concurrently.
"I am still to prove my innocence," Jerome told reporters after the sentence was pronounced and said he would appeal in a higher court against the verdict.
The judge awarded a three-year jail term to Maria, a model and struggling actress who was also held guilty of trying to destroy evidence.
Jerome was ordered to pay a fine of Rs 50,000 for the offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and an equal amount for causing disappearance of evidence. Maria was fined Rs 50,000 for hiding evidence.
Neeraj's grieving father Amarnath Grover described the sentence as an acquittal for Maria. "Why were Jerome and Maria given different sentences, when both were there when Neeraj was killed and his body brutally disposed of," he asked.
"Both are equally responsible for the murder," Amarnath said, adding "I do not need any money."
During hearing of arguments, Public Prosecutor R V Kini sought life term for Jerome while the former naval officer's counsel Wahab Khan pleaded for minimum sentence considering the fact that he was not a habitual offender.
Kini sought seven years imprisonment for Maria, calling her an "active player" in the crime. At one stage, he even said the crime warranted "capital punishment".
Maria's counsel Sharif Sheikh contended that she had already served three years in jail as provided under section 201 of IPC and "keeping her in jail for more days would be like illegal confinement".
Maintaining that she was not a habitual offender, Sheikh pleaded for lighter sentence considering her young age.
A section of the legal fraternity has voiced its anguish at how Maria and Jerome could get away with lighter punishment in the brutal killing of Neeraj, a 25-year-old TV executive. Despite the macabre manner in which Neeraj was killed and his body hacked into tiny pieces, the court had yesterday absolved the two accused of the more serious charge of murder, saying it was committed on the spur of the moment and was not premeditated.
Both the accused had been charged by the prosecution with murder, criminal conspiracy, common intention and causing disappearance of evidence.
During arguments on the quantum of sentence, Kini sought life term for Jerome saying that Neeraj was repeatedly stabbed with the intent to kill. Being a defence officer he could have easily overpowered Grover and there was no need for him to repeatedly stab the victim which showed that his intention was to kill, he said.
That Jerome, who had joined the navy to protect the people, stabbed and killed Grover and chopped his body into pieces also reflected his intention, Kini said.
Jerome's lawyer Wahab Khan while pleading for minimum sentence to the former naval officer said his conduct since the beginning of the trial to the day of punishment had been very good. "He (Jerome) did not join a multinational corporation but defence forces for the noble cause of serving the nation. He joined the Indian Navy when just 18 and at the time of the incident he was just a lieutenant," he said, adding the convict had always cooperated in the investigation.
Noting that Jerome never wanted to kill Neeraj, Khan quoted a witness at Kochi to say that on his return there after the incident he always appeared upset.
"After coming out of jail his anxiety will be to go back to the naval base. Since childhood he had dreamt of serving the nation and will access all options to rejoin the navy," Khan said and showed the judge a newspaper report which said the ex-naval officer was teaching inmates in jail.
Khan said Jerome should be given minimum punishment as he has parents were dependent on him.
Kini sought seven years imprisonment for Maria, calling her an "active player" in the crime as she not only went to a shopping mall to buy a knife that was used to chop the victim's body into pieces but also arranged for a car in which it was carried to be disposed of in the forest.
He said Maria also tried to mislead the police by claiming that Neeraj had gone missing when, in fact, he had been killed. "The crime warrants capital punishment," he said.
"How do you expect a convicted person to be happy ... I am blank," was Maria's terse response when asked to comment on the verdict.
A sullen-faced Jerome's father, who did not reveal his name, said "I do not want to speak. We are going through bad times. I hope you understand."

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