Mumbai, Jul 1: Kannada actress Maria Susairaj was today awarded a maximum three years' imprisonment while her boyfriend and former Navy officer Emile Jerome got a 10-year jail term in the brutal killing of Neeraj Grover, a day after they were absolved of murder charge.
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 during the trial.
She was convicted of destroying evidence while Jerome was held guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder prompting angry reactions from the victim's family and a section of the legal fraternity.
Sessions court Judge N W Chandwani yesterday acquitted the two of the charge of murder of the TV executive three years back and convicted of a lesser offence.
The sentence was pronounced after the judge heard arguments by the prosecution and defence on the quantum of punishment. The prosecution had sought a life sentence for Jerome.
In a gruesome crime, Neeraj was killed and his body hacked into several pieces and disposed off in a forest in adjoining Thane.
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.
Jerome was convicted on the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under section 304 (part I) IPC which attracts life term in jail or imprisonment up to ten years. Both he and Maria were also found guilty of trying to destroy evidence under section 201 IPC which provides for a maximum three years in jail.
Both the accused had been charged by the prosecution with murder, criminal conspiracy, common intention and causing disappearance of evidence.
Judge Chandwani, while delivering the verdict, held that Jerome had acted on the spur of the moment and that the killing was not premeditated.
“When he entered the room he was calm. This showed he did not have intention (to murder). Obviously for a fiance, in a situation where he finds a stranger with his partner, would upset a prudent man and he would lose control,” the judge had remarked, while convicting them under lighter charges.
According to the prosecution, Jerome had gone to Maria's residence in suburban Malad on May 7, 2008 where he got into a fight with Grover (26) during which the naval officer stabbed the TV executive to death. Maria and Jerome later cut Grover's body into pieces and disposed it in Manor forest in Thane.
The verdict of the sessions court, that has been hearing this sensational case for over two years now, has come as a huge setback to the police and prosecution.
“Even I am shocked by the verdict. Certainly we will go into an appeal,” said RV Kini, Public Prosecutor. PTI