Grover killing: Maharashtra appeals for stringent punishment

Three months after a trial court acquitted starlet Maria Susairaj and her fiance Jerome Emile Mathew of murdering television executive Neeraj Grover but convicted them on lesser charges, the Maharashtra government Tuesday filed an appeal seeking enhancement of punishment.

"The Bombay High Court has admitted the state's appeal in the matter today (Tuesday) seeking more punishment for them (Maria and Mathew)," Susairaj's lawyer Abdul Wahab Khan told IANS.

However, Khan said he was not aware when the appeal - admitted by a division bench of Justice V.M. Kanade and Justice A.M. Thipsay -- would come up for further hearing.

The developments follow an assurance made by Home Minister R.R. Patil that the state would challenge the July 1 lower court verdict in the case, after a nationwide outrage.

Incidentally, both the accused have also moved the high court challenging the sentences awarded to them by the trial court.

In the judgment, Mathew was slapped with a 10-year imprisonment for "culpable homicide not amounting to murder," while Maria was given three years and held guilty only for destruction of evidence.

She was set free immediately thereafter since she had already completed her sentence as an undertrial and returned to her native Karnataka.

The trial court also held that the prosecution had failed to establish the motives behind the brutal killing of Grover, at Maria's residence in suburban Malad, north-west Mumbai, in the early hours of May 7, 2008.

In its appeal, the state contended that the two accused had conspired to kill Grover since Maria felt cheated by him for not getting her a plum role in a teleserial as he had promised.

The state said that Mathew came to Mumbai a day before the incident, as planned with Maria.

The police investigations revealed that Mathew flew into a rage after finding Grover in Maria's bedroom, and brutally assaulted him.

Later, he ran to the kitchen and got a knife with which he stabbed Grover repeatedly.

Thereafter, Maria and Mathew cut the body into several pieces and drove off to the thick forests of Manor, in adjoining Thane district and burnt it there.

The crime came to light almost a fortnight later after Grover's family lodged a missing complaint.

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