Kochi, Nov 14 (PTI) A Kerala court's order on Tuesday to hang till death a migrant worker from Bihar convicted for the brutal rape and murder of a five-year-old girl in nearby Aluva was widely welcomed by the public in the state by distributing sweets and bursting firecrackers.
The victim's parents expressed thanks to the court, the police, the prosecution and the people of Kerala for supporting them and ensuring justice for their daughter after her killer was given the death penalty.
Not just them, people who had gathered outside the special court here in large numbers welcomed the punishment awarded to the convict -- Asafak Alam (28) -- and said it was a strong message to society that violence against children would not go unpunished.
Many women said the verdict has strengthened their faith in the system and makes them feel secure in sending out their kids to play.
"He (Alam) deserves it," was the most popular response from people across all age groups and sexes on TV channels.
After the order was pronounced and Special Public Prosecutor G Mohan Raj came out of the court, people were seen praising him, shaking his hands and even kissing his hands.
One of the key eyewitnesses in the case who had seen the victim with Alam distributed sweets to everyone near his place of work after he heard about the order.
"The little girl's soul will now attain peace," the local trade union worker told reporters.
Besides the general public, political leaders too welcomed the court order.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the punishment given on Children's Day should be seen as a strong warning to those who commit violence against children.
The chief minister said that the child fell victim to the most heinous crime and therefore, the entire criminal justice system worked efficiently to catch the culprit and ensure the maximum punishment for him.
Vijayan said that while nothing can replace the loss suffered by the parents, the government has assured all kinds of help to them.
Leader of Opposition in the state assembly V D Satheesan said the verdict which has come on Children's Day is a historic one.
"The criminal in the case deserves no leniency," he said.
State Law Minister P Rajeev said the state government was able to fulfil its promise to the victim's parents to ensure the maximum possible punishment for the culprit.
He said that the speed with which the probe was carried out and the trial was completed shows the state government's commitment to the women and children of Kerala.
State Health Minister Veena George too welcomed the verdict and said it would send out a strong message to society that children should not be harmed.
"We all had hoped for the maximum punishment and the court gave that," she told reporters.
The minister appreciated that the probe and the trial were completed in "record time".
Beside the death penalty, the court also handed down five life terms to the convict for various offences under the IPC and the Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
It also sentenced him to varying jail terms from one year to 10 years for various offences, including kidnapping, procuration of a minor girl, causing hurt and destruction of evidence under the IPC.
The court said that the convict will first serve the term sentences concurrently and then his life term would begin which would continue for the remainder of his natural life.
SPP Mohan Raj said the execution of the death sentence is contingent upon confirmation by the Kerala High Court.
The death sentence would be carried out, while the convict serves the jail terms, once he exhausts all his legal appeals against today's verdict.
The court also imposed a fine of Rs 7.3 lakh on the convict.
The minor girl was brutally raped and strangulated to death on July 28 after she was abducted from her rented house here.
The body of the girl was found dumped in a stack in a marshy area behind a local market in nearby Aluva and the accused was arrested based on CCTV visuals. PTI HMP HMP ANE