Keenan-Rueben murder case: Prime accused Jitendra Rana says all accusations are false
More than four years after the horrific Amboli double murder of Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandez, justice has been served. All four accused were sentenced to life imprisonment (until natural death) for brutally killing bravehearts Keenan and Reuben, who died trying to save their women friends from harassment.
Main accused Jitendra Rana being taken to court from Arthur Road jail. Pic/Bipin Kokate
After the sentencing, Keenan’s 91-year-old grandmother and his aunt were seen crying in court. They folded their palms and told the judge, “Thank you very much.”
The four accused — Jitendra Rana, Satish Dulhaj, Sunil Bodh and Dipak Pival — were convicted for murder, while two of them — Rana and Dulhaj — were also held guilty of molesting one of the women in the group.
“All the allegations against us are false. In all my life, I have never teased any girl, never smoked or done drugs, I never had alcohol. I have kids and a family to look after,” pled Rana, when the court asked whether they had anything to say about the sentence.
The verdict was declared by Special Women’s Court Judge Vrushali Joshi, to whom the case was transferred in March 2013. She noted that the crime was pre-meditated and qualified as murder, not culpable homicide. The case was investigated by Inspector Dyanesh Devade and Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam had examined 25 witnesses, including five eye-witnesses.
‘They did nothing’
Speaking to mid-day, Rana said, “All the allegations are false and I will appeal before the high court regarding the same.”
Sunil and Dipak’s families also maintained that they had been wrongly accused. “The boys did not do anything. They just went to see what was happening, as Rana and Dulhaj were their colony friends. The judge herself said that Sunil just injured Avinash and the boys did not hit any of the deceased. Then why have they been sentenced to life imprisonment? They have kids to look after. They have been punished for something they haven’t done.”
Judge’s observation: The intention was to murder
Judge Joshi while pointing to the derogatory comments made by the accused, and the fact that they touched the girls inappropriately, observed, “This proves that they were in preparation for some grave and heinous offence. There was an altercation and the accused left the spot giving threats… There was common intention to commit murder.”
Apart from Keenan and Reuben, a third friend also tried to stop the accused from molesting the women, and during this altercation, he slapped one of the accused, Rana. However, the judge observed the accused did not lash out and commit the murder in the heat of the moment, because after the slap, they left the spot and later returned with a gang of over 10 people.
“It turned into premeditation as soon as they left the spot. They left the spot and came prepared to commit murder… this was not in continuance with the offence of molestation; it was not in a spurt of anger, therefore Section 304(2) (culpable homicide) will not be attracted in this case,” said the judge.
'Tumhare paas ladki hai, is liye hero ban raha hai kya?'
On October 20, 2011, Keenan, Reuben, Shobhita Singh, Priyanka Fernandez, Avinash Solanki, Benjamin Fernandes and a seventh friend (name withheld) were attacked outside a restaurant in Amboli, Andheri (W). While the women were exiting the restaurant, the men were at a nearby paan shop. Rana called out to the woman, passed a derogatory comment and touched her inappropriately. In her statement, the woman said, “I screamed and pushed him and ran towards my friends and I told them what happened.”
When Keenan intervened all four accused gathered around him and started abusing him. Rana said, “Tumhare paas ladki hai, is liye hero ban raha hai kya?” The accused left the spot and after some time, they returned with two knifes, a cricket stump and big bamboo stick and they attacked Keenan, Reuben and Avinash. Keenan succumbed to his injuries minutes after he was rushed to hospital, while Reuben passed away 10 days later.
@Varun_dvn: All 4 accused pronounced guilty in court,extremely emotional at this moment #justiceforkeenanandreuben #KeenanReuben
@sonakshisinha: Justice for #KeenanReuben finally. Its been a long wait...but better late than never. #bravehearts
@authoramish: Justice has finally been done... Hope their souls find peace now and purpose once again. #KeenanReuben
@FearlessIndian1: #KeenanReuben case reveals tat most Indians are cowards/ we dont step up wen a fellow citizen is in trouble.What a SHAME
@ashokepandit: Thank U #Judiciary fr delivering #LifeSentence to killers of #KeenanReuben.Wd hv bn more happy if they were hanged.
@VicWicky: Justice for #KeenanReuben after 5 yrs! who showed the world that you don't need to be a superhero to stand up for some1. Thank you brothers!
October 20, 2011: At 7:45 pm, Keenan Santos (24) and Reuben Fernandez (27) reached Amboli Bar and Kitchen in Andheri West for dinner and to watch a cricket match. Keenan’s girlfriend Priyanka Fernandes and their friends accompanied them.
At around 10:30 pm, they exited the restaurant. A man, identified as Jitendra Rana, standing in a nearby paan shop started passing lewd comments and tried to get physical with the girls.
Keenan and Reuben asked him to back off and Rana went away only to return with a group of four men, brandishing knives, bamboos and daggers. The group brutally assaulted both Keenan and Reuben.
Keenan died on the same day, on the way to hospital.
October 21, 2011: Four accused Jitendra Rana (25), Satish Dulhaj (35), Sunil Bote (20) and Deepak Tival (19) arrested in the wee hours.
October 30, 2011: After 11 days of the incident, Reuben succumbed to his injuries.
Nov 3, 2011: A Facebook page called the Zero Tolerance Campaign against eve teasing was created. Campaign coordinator Maitreyee Achadhat said that the page is a “forum for discussion and awareness on the issue”. A Facebook group called “Keenan Santos” was also created that garnered more than 46,000 members in a short span.
January 2012: A 416-page chargesheet was filed before the Andheri metropolitan magistrate court. After completing the formalities, the lower court transferred the case papers to a Sessions court for trial.
February 8, 2012: Case was committed to a fast track court in Sewri.
October 23, 2012: Charges were framed against all the four accused. More than 200 people marched from Amboli church to the grave of Keenan Santos, on the occasion of his first death anniversary.
Jan 2013: Day-to-day trial began in the fast track court.
March 19 2013: Case transferred to women’s court after complainant Avinash Solanki Bali filed an application before the Sewree court to transfer the matter to an all women’s court, since many witnesses are girls.
April 18, 2013: Trial begins in the all-women’s court. The statement of the first witness is recorded.
Till October 2015: Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam examines 25 witnesses in court, which included five eyewitnesses.
The arguments in the case began on January 18, 2016 and went on till April 22, 2016.