In a landmark judgment, a sessions court awarded the death sentence to three men found guilty of gangraping a 23-year-old photojournalist in the abandoned Shakti Mills in central Mumbai last August, the first time repeat rape convicts were given capital punishment under new laws enacted last year.
Observing that there was no scope of leniency, the three convicts — Vijay Jadhav (18), Mohammad Qasim Shaikh (20) and Salim Ansari (27) — were sentenced to death for repeating the crime.
The fourth convict in the case, Siraj Rehman, was sentenced to life.
The trio had been sentenced to life by the same court in an earlier gangrape of a 19-year-old telephone operator inside Shakti Mills in July last year.
Accepting special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam’s argument that the three were repeat offenders and had to be dealt with an iron hand, the court termed the crime as “diabolic”.
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It also agreed with the prosecution that mitigating circumstances cannot be considered while awarding the maximum punishment to the three given the sheer extent of cruelty. The defence lawyer told the court that the convicts were deprived of basic fundamental rights, pointing to their impoverished backgrounds.
But the court said considering such arguments would be a travesty of justice.
“Conviction cannot be dependent on the social and the economic status of the victim or the accused and the race, caste, creed of the accused cannot be taken into consideration,” sessions court principle judge Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi said citing judgments by the Supreme Court.
Holding that any leniency would lead to miscarriage of justice, the court observed that the men had boasted of having committed such crimes in the past.
“Depravity of their character is reflected from the fact that the accused enjoyed the act. They did not commit the crime under any duress or compulsion. They had enjoyed the act. This was a case, where the accused were completely unprovoked,” the court observed.
She rubbished defence claims that no physical injuries were seen on the victim’s body and said that such submissions make it appear like the accused had done some charity by letting her leave uninjured.
“This court had an opportunity to understand the trauma as she recalled them at the time of her testimony in the court. Questions like whether she has suffered any injuries are irrelevant and her trauma cannot be overlooked. Her testimony and her mother’s deposition in the court clearly tell how heinous the crime was,” the judge observed in the order dictated in court.
While the accused pleaded for leniency, the court asked if this case did not qualify for the maximum punishment then which one would.
“A defenseless, harmless victim was raped by the accused unprovoked…This did not happen because of some momentary lapse,” the court observed. Applauding the victim for her courage, the court said, “This case would have also gone unreported if the victim had not come ahead and complained to the police. She took a bold step and lodged the complaint. Because of her, this and the other crime came to light.”
Defence lawyer Prakash Salsingekar called it a miscarriage of justice and said he would appeal against the judgment in the Bombay High Court.