Neeraj called Maria and not vice versa, says court

Neeraj called Maria and not vice versa, says court

In its July 1 judgement, the court observed that the prosecution's case was that Maria called Neeraj at her home by telephoning him on the night of May 6, 2008. But the call detail report showed it was Neeraj who called Maria on her mobile. So the call record is contrary to the prosecution's case.

In a copy of the order, released to the media today, the court noted that the theory of criminal conspiracy, put forward by the prosecution only on the basis of call details between Maria and Jerome on May 6, 2008, fails to hold.

"Had there been plan to eliminate deceased Neeraj, in pursuance to criminal conspiracy between the Maria and Jerome, then why Jerome would have called on the mobile of Neeraj," observed judge M W Chandwani.

"Therefore, I find substance in the arguments of defence advocates that Maria had no motive for murder of Neeraj and there was no conspiracy between Maria and Jerome." The court observed in its 177-page order that the prosecution's case was that Jerome was a navy officer and that he suddenly flew to Mumbai without obtaining leave from naval base at Kochi, where he was posted.

It was very easy to come with preparation of murder by bringing weapon with himself but it is not the prosecution's case that Jerome had visited Mumbai with preparation or with any weapon of assault to eliminate Neeraj, it said.

The court held that as per the prosecution, after the murder Maria went to Hypercity mall for buying a big knife and a bag for disposing Neeraj's body and also borrowed a car. "These circumstances itself go contrary to the theory of conspiracy. Had there been a conspiracy, the accused would have prepared the entire thing in advance."

The most important circumstance which goes against the theory of prosecution regarding conspiracy is the weapon of assault, a knife. According to prosecution, a kitchen knife was used to kill the 25-year-old TV professional.

"I am unable to digest that theory of conspiracy. If it is a pre-planned murder then the accused would not have used kitchen knife. Jerome, then serving in navy, could have easily arranged the weapon of assault to give definite design to conspiracy," the judge remarked.

The court held that it has been brought on record that Maria had visited Mumbai in April 2008. From the record, it appears that the friendship of Maria and Grover was only of 10 days old. If, according to prosecution, Neeraj was trying for a role in TV serial for Maria then why in the passage of only a week or fortnight, Maria should get frustrated when usually it takes considerable time to get a role in TV serials.

"A very important aspect of the case is that the prosecution has not brought anything on record to show the grudge of Maria over Neeraj, rather prosecution came with a case of intimacy between Maria and Neeraj."

The judge said that Maria's advocate had brought on record the press conference of police officer Rakesh Maria in which he had stated that the case was a triangular love story.

"The theory of conspiracy of prosecution has failed. Therefore, looking into the circumstance and the weapon of assault, the theory of motive brought out by the prosecution does not seem to be probable."

Commenting on Maria's confession, the court said the statement was made within a week after the crime was detected. It was not retracted by the Maria for almost two and half years. No material has been brought on record that it was taken under duress, rather it was made voluntarily.

The court held that she was given a day to rethink before making the confession, in which she gave details about the incident on May 6, 2008. Not just this, police during probe revealed the same theory mentioned in her confession.

"Therefore, retraction of confession by Maria is for obvious reason - to save herself and Jerome from punishment. Surprisingly, though the prosecution examined (magistrate) Pankaj Shah through whom the statement of confession of Maria is proved, the prosecution went back foot and submitted that they did not rely on her statement of confession. This appears to be a deliberate attempt on the part of prosecution to get severe punishment easily for both of accused," the court said.

"Maria purposefully retracted from her statement. But the court is not helpless and cannot sit as a mere spectator. Ultimate object of the court is to go to the root of the case and find out the truth," observed the judge while holding that even Maria's retracted confession can be relied on.

Maria (30) was sentenced to three years in jail for destruction of evidence, while Jerome (28) was awarded 10 years in prison for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Since, the actor had already spent over three years in jail since her arrest, she walked out of the prison on July 2.

The court was critical the way media covered the case. "Some TV channels said the body was chopped in 300 pieces, which is far way from the facts on record. It is unfortunate that trial by media outraged the general people by publishing news of chopping the body in 300 pieces."

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