25 year old Uthra, who was differently-abled, was found dead in her parental home on May 7, 2020. She died due to snakebite. Uthra’s murder was a rarest of the rare case which includes homicidal snakebite. It was not a natural snakebite but a well planned murder. This was for the second time that Uthra was bitten by a snake.
As per the investigation, her husband bought two snakes – a viper in March 2020 and then an Indian cobra in May 2020.
Series Of Events In Uthra’s Murder Case
Here is a complete list of events that happened during the Uthra dowry death case which has everything you need to know about Uthra murder case.
March 2, 2020: Uthra was bitten by a viper in her in-laws house. She was bed-ridden for over 52 days and had to undergo plastic surgery to repair the damage.
May 7, 2020: Uthra was bitten by an Indian cobra at her parental house in Anchal, Kollam.
May 24, 2020: The main accused, Sooraj S Kumar was arrested following a complaint filed by Uthra’s parents.
May 26, 2020: Completed the postmortem of Cobra.The snake was 152 centimetres long. The fangs, bones and brain of the snake were collected. The fangs were 6cm long.
July 4, 2020: Snakecatcher Suresh turned approver submitting that he was not aware why Sooraj had been buying the snakes.
July 12, 2020: Sooraj broke down and publicly confessed to the murder in front of reporters. He admitted that he bought two snakes for Rs 10,000 from snakecatcher Suresh on two occasions.
August 14, 2020: Kollam Crime Branch (Rural Police) filed a 1,000-page chargesheet.
August 26, 2021: Murder scene recreated with dummy test, video goes viral.
October 11, 2021: Sooraj convicted of murdering his wife Uthra.
October 13, 2021: Sooraj awarded double life sentence with a fine of Rs 5 lakh. He has also been sentenced to 10 years and 7 years of imprisonment in two other cases.
Greed For Dowry and Property
Sooraj and Uthra got married in March 2018 and had a 2 year old son. As per Uthra’s family, they had gifted 100 sovereigns of gold, a car — on Sooraj’s demand, and later funded Sooraj’s sister’s education and her two-wheeler. They used to give him money almost every month.
The deceased’s family accused Sooraj and his family of harassing Uthra mentally as well as physically for dowry.
How Uthra Was Murdered?
Everyone had considered it a natural death and no one was wondering that it can be a murder. How Uthra was killed? In the first incident when Uthra was bitten by a Viper, Sooraj allegedly delayed taking her to the hospital. He called his friend after almost 2 hours to arrange the vehicle even after they already had two vehicles at their house.
In the second incident, Uthra’s mother Manimegalai alleged that Sooraj was a late riser but he woke up early and went outside that morning. However, Uthra didn’t wake up at the usual time. She found Uthra unconscious in the room and she was declared dead in the hospital. The autopsy report confirmed that Sooraj had given sleeping pills to his wife before the snakebite.
Loopholes In The Well Planned Conspiracy
Though it was believed to be a natural death and some assumed it to be ‘sarppa kopam’ (wrath of the snake), Uthra’s family and police noticed several unusual things. The investigation revealed that
- Sooraj had been searching extensively about snake bites and how to agitate a snake on YouTube.
- The dummy test revealed that the wound caused by cobra in a natural situation was 1.7 cm. However, there were two wounds (2.5 cm and 2.8 cm deep) on Uthra’s body.
- Viper (which bit Uthra in March) rarely climbs trees and is not found in residential areas.
The biggest challenge in the Kerala snakebite murder case was to prove that snakebite was not natural.
Applaudable Work By Crime branch Deputy Superintendent of Police, A Ashokan and S Harisankar, Then Kollam Rural Superintendent
“In the second incident, the argument that a cobra climbed into Uthra’s house through the bedroom window too didn’t seem plausible. The room had two windows and three ventilators at a height of 150 centimetres and as per veterinarians, the snake couldn’t have reached that height,” said Ashokan.
He further added, “Sooraj had alleged that the snake entered through the window. But the family members told us that the windows are always shut because it is an air-conditioned room. And even if that allegation were right, it was Sooraj who was sleeping close to the window. So shouldn’t the snake have attacked him first? How will a snake cross over him, come to the other side and leap over her hand and bite her?”
Advocate Mohan Raj stated, “This murder was done with the aim of eliminating her while retaining all her wealth. He didn’t want just her dowry. A day before the murder, he had taken most of her gold jewellery.”
A portion of the gold that Uthra had brought with her was found buried in soil behind Sooraj’s house in Adoor. Sooraj’s father Surendran Panicker (59) was arrested, on charges of destroying evidence and hiding 38 sovereigns of gold jewellery in June 2020. Renuka and Surya, mother and sister of Sooraj, were arrested on charges of conspiracy, domestic violence and destruction of evidence in August 2020.
Kerala Court Found Husband Guilty of Using Venomous Snakes Twice To Kill Wife: Uthra Case Judgment
The most awaited decision to serve justice to an innocent who fell prey to the greed for dowry has finally been announced. The corridors of the court were fully packed with people waiting for that decision. In the sensational Uthra murder case, an additional sessions court in Kollam has convicted the husband for the cold-blooded murder of his wife by snakebite.
Kollam Sixth Additional Sessions Court judge M Manoj announced the much-awaited verdict after a legal battle of over a year, five months, and four days. The quantum for the crime will be decided on October 13 (Wednesday).
He has been convicted under Section 302 (murder), Section 307 (attempt to murder), Section 328 (causing injury by a poisonous substance), and Section 201 (destruction of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code.
Uthra Case Final Judgment: Double Life Sentence Along With Rs 5 Lakh Fine, Separate 10 Years and & Years Imprisonment
Kerala Court has awarded Sooraj S Kumar double life sentence and imposed a fine of Rs 5 lakh for murdering his wife by inducing homicidal snakebite. The court has also awarded him 7 years and 10 years imprisonment in two other cases. The convict would undergo these two jail sentences first and then will start his double life sentence.
Alarming Dowry Deaths In India
As per National Crime Records Bureau, India loses 21 lives to dowry every day. In 2020, over seven thousand dowry deaths were reported in India. And this is all happening when we have a law (Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961) prohibiting the giving and taking of dowry.
This is high time that the society has to stand against the issue and save the daughters of India. Don’t let the dowry mongers snuff another life to let you realise that a divorced daughter is actually better than a dead daughter. Start welcoming your daughters back from failed marriages.
This is one of the unusual case that made headlines today. That is one of the cases which every law student should read about.
This article is written by Varsha. You can reach out to the author via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.