Two cabbies get death term for murder, rape of Australian tourist (Lead)

August 11th, 2008 - 10:25 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 11 (IANS) Four years after Australian tourist Dawn Emilie Griggs was raped and murdered by two taxi drivers upon her arrival here from Hong Kong, a city court sentenced the two guilty drivers to death. The judge termed the crime a “breach of trust” reposed in the taxi driver and a “breach of obligation towards a foreigner guest”. Relying on circumstantial evidence that completed the chain of events in the rape and murder of Griggs within hours of her landing at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport, Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Kumar awarded death sentence and a fine of Rs.3,000 on the two drivers - Jyotish Prasad, 28, and Ashish Kumar, in his early 30s.

They were on Aug 2 held guilty of rape, murder, robbery and destruction of evidence under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Drawing a parallel with the Dhananjoy Chatterjee case in which the apex court awarded death to the accused in 2004 for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Kolkata, the court said: “If the facts are seen closely, it would be found that the gravity of the present case is more than the case before the Supreme Court.”

“In this case, the victim was of such an age that she should have been seen by the convicts as a motherly figure. Committing rape of an old lady shows a mind which is more depraved than Chatterjee’s,” the judge said in his 75-page order.

“It must not be forgotten that the victim in the present case was a foreigner lady who was totally dependant upon the hospitality provided to her by our people. She was totally defenceless and unprotected. Convicts were in a position of dominance over her while she was sitting in the taxi. There is an element of breach of trust reposed on the taxi driver and breach of obligation towards a foreigner guest arriving in India,” the judge ruled.

During arguments on the quantum of sentence, public prosecutor Vinod Kumar Sharma said: “Both convicts not only murdered a foreign tourist, but also killed the trust of a foreign nation. The offence is a stigma on the country.”

Opposing the prosecutor’s plea, defence counsel Vikas Arora said: “Different parameters cannot be applied just because a foreign national was killed. In a case based on circumstantial evidence, death penalty cannot be awarded.”

However, the court rejected the defence arguments and awarded death to the duo.

Griggs, 59, had landed from Hong Kong on a Cathay Pacific flight in the wee hours of March 17, 2004, for a meditation course. She took a pre-paid taxi from the Indira Gandhi International Airport and was later found murdered in a nearby deserted field.

Acting on a tip-off from the in-charge of the airport’s taxi booth, the police arrested Jyotish the next day; Ashish was detained four days later.

In June 2004, the police filed its first charge sheet, accusing the duo of murder and robbery. However, after medical reports confirmed rape on the tourist, a supplementary charge sheet was filed pressing additional charges of rape.

During trial, the accused claimed innocence, contending that they were implicated owing to diplomatic pressure on the investigating agency and that no motive could be imputed on them.

However, the court found sufficient material on record coupled with circumstantial evidence pointing to their complicity and awarded death after agreeing with the prosecution story.

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