Nagpur: The four killers of engineering student Monica Kirnapure, who was murdered because of mistaken identity on March 11, 2011, were sentenced to life in prison by a court here in Maharashtra on Tuesday.
Kunal Jaiswal, Pradeep Sahare, Umesh Marathe and Shrikant Sonekar were convicted for killing the 23-year-old Monica. Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam had demanded the death penalty for the accused, including a teacher, from additional sessions judge M.W. Chandwani.
"This is one of the rarest of rare cases. It is a serious case as the girl became a victim of mistaken identity," Nikam told media persons after the verdict. However, Sudip Jaiswal, the advocate for one of the accused, opposed the demand for the death penalty saying that hundreds of people are murdered and 400 cases are already pending, so how could this be termed as the 'rarest of rare cases'. Rameshwar Sonekar and Geeta Maldhure, two accomplices of the four convicts, were acquitted for lack of evidence.
Reacting to the verdict, the victim's family said they were not satisfied and demanded the death sentence. "Look at the condition of girls in India. The 'Beti Bachao' campaign is a farce. If we had any inkling this would happen to our daughter, we would have aborted her," Monica's father Dashrath and mother Vandana said in unison. Both the prosecution and the defence plan to challenge the verdict before the Bombay High Court.
The killing of Monica had shaken Nagpur and the entire city had taken to the streets demanding justice for the victim. Police subsequently arrested the accused and filed a 750-page chargesheet against them in June 2011. According to investigators, the assailants were given a supari (contract) of Rs.1.40 lakh for the murder. They mistook Monica for another third year engineering student Rekha (not her real name) who studied in SRM College of Engineering for Women and lived in the same hostel.
Police said Rekha's ex-boyfriend Kunal Jaiswal, a school teacher in Katol, wanted revenge after she spurned him and became close to another youth, who was already having an affair with another of Rekha's friends. However, Jaiswal's name cropped up only after checking the call records of various girls in the hostel. A hostel inmate informed police that he used to call and seek details of Rekha's whereabouts. It was at this point that the police first suspected a case of mistaken identity and directed the investigations accordingly to finally crack the case.
While Rekha was the actual target, Monica became the victim as both had covered their faces to escape the early summer heat in Nagpur. Monica was stabbed at least 10 times in Shreenagar area of Nandanvan with such force that the knife remained embedded in her body. The probe revealed that Jaiswal gave the impression that he was ready to accept the break-up with Rekha and even demanded an amount of Rs.14,000 she owed him.
However, he gave a 'supari' to Sahare, Marathe and Sonekar and another unknown person to eliminate her. On the day of the killing, he was in Katol but kept in touch with Sahare and others via telephone as they waited for Rekha near the hostel that morning. But unknown to them, Rekha had already left the hostel at 9 a.m. and the attack on Monica took place two hours later.