Mumbai court sentences two convicted of killing woman colleague to life terms

by IANS |

A Mumbai sessions court on Tuesday sentenced a man and a woman, convicted of the sensational murder of a woman colleague in 2018 as they feared losing their jobs for a romantic liaison at the workplace, to life imprisonment.

Siddhesh S. Tamhankar, 42, and his female colleague, Khushi A. Sajhwani, 46, were found guilty of murdering Chartered Accountant Kirti Vyas, 28, though her body was never recovered.

Observing that the prosecution had proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt, Additional Session Judge M. G. Deshpande had pronounced Tamhankar and Sajhwani guilty of the gruesome crime and posted the matter for quantum of punishment on Tuesday. While Tamhankar has been in custody for nearly seven years, Sajhwani had secured bail from the Supreme Court in 2021 but was taken into custody by the police again on Monday after being held guilty.

Special Public Prosecutor Avadhut M. Chimalkar, arguing for the most stringent punishment, said that the murder was committed with the "coolest of minds" and ended the budding career of the young CA who was the financial pillar of support for her family.

The court has convicted the duo for murder, kidnapping, wrongful restraint and destruction of evidence among other charges, in a rare criminal case where the court had to determine the murder charge despite the absence of the victim’s body.

Vyas was reported missing by her family at the D. B. Marg Police Station late on March 16, 2018, when she did not return from her suburban workplace to her south Mumbai home at her usual time of around 9.30 p.m.

After investigating for over two months, the police claimed that two of her colleagues Tamhankar and Sajhwani were responsible for her disappearance and the murder, though her mortal remains were never found, and the case was handed over to the Crime Branch.

The prosecution argued that circumstances pointed to her two colleagues killing her in a moving car after they picked up Vyas from her home to go to the office, but both the accused denied picking her up, causing her disappearance, or murdering her.

The police lodged an FIR against them and arrested them on May 24, 2018, after the investigators found blood stains in Sajhwani’s car and discrepancies in their replies on what happened on March 16.

After the detailed probe, the police filed a charge sheet running into over 950 pages detailing the murder case against the accused duo, statements of witnesses like the victim’s family members, office colleagues and others. The prosecution relied on traces of Vyas’ blood found in Sajhwani’s vehicle in which she and Tamhankar had offered to take her to the office, the CCTV footage, mobile records and other evidence.

The prime motive behind the murder was that Vyas was aware of the relationship of the Tamhankar-Sajhwani duo and they did not want her to expose them.

The trial started in 2019 and Sajhwani steadfastly claimed she was innocent, that there was no evidence against her, and along with Tamhankar, sought leniency as they had no criminal backgrounds, and their families were dependent on them.

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