The Bombay High Court on Thursday expressed no view on a sessions court’s decision to allow the framing of the additional charge of section 376 E IPC, that could attract death penalty for three accused in Shakti Mills gangrape cases, for allegedly committing a subsequent offence of rape. The sessions court can proceed with the charge against the three accused.
The High court, however, issued notice to the attorney general as the petition filed by the accused in the case before the High Court also raised questions over the constitutional validity of section 376 E. Justices NH Patil and A M Thipsay observed that the section, under which the capital punishment can be attracted for a subsequent offence of rape, gives the concept of ‘rarest of rare’ a go by and hence, its constitutional validity needs to be examined.
The court also said that at this stage three accused in the Shakti Mills case have only been charged under section 376 E and it has not been proved against them. The court, however, once again said that the charge can have drastic consequences as a person may be hanged, if found guilty under it.
The attorney general has been asked to respond to the High Courts notice in six weeks. The notice has been issued to the attorney general as section 376 E comes under a central government statute.
The accused in the Shakti Mills case, held guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment for gangraping a telephone operator on July 31, 2013 had moved the HC, against the sessions court order allowing the prosecution to invoke section 376 E against them before they were awarded punishment for raping a photojournalist on August 22, 2013. The trial in both the cases was conducted simultaneously. They were held guilty in both cases on March 20. They have, however, not been handed out the quantum of thier punishment sentence in the August 22, 2013 offence.
If found guilty under section 376 E, for a subsequent offence of gangrape, the three accused – Vijay Jadhav, Quasim Sheikh alias Bangali and Salim Ansari – may face life imprisonment for the remainder of their natural life or the death sentence.