CONTINUING HIS arguments in the Shakti Mills gangrape case, wherein three convicts have challenged the constitutional validity of Section 376(E) of the IPC before the Bombay High Court, lawyer Yug Chaudhry told the court on Friday that the men were sentenced to death for a “repeat” offence of gangrape, but the sentence was not awarded to them for a second offence they committed after serving time for a similar offence committed earlier.
Section 376 (E), added by an amendment made by the Parliament in 2013 after December 16 gangrape case, states that whoever has been previously convicted of an offence of rape, and is subsequently convicted of an offence punishable under IPC for punishment for rape, “shall be punished with imprisonment for life which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life, or with death”.
The three convicts — Vijay Jadhav, Mohammed Kasim Bengali and Mohammed Salim Ansari — have all been sentenced to death by a sessions court in 2014 for the gangrape of a city-based photojournalist. The same year, the three men were also convicted for raping a call centre employee. Both instances of gangrape had taken place in 2013 in the Shakti Mills compound.
“The question is whether there is no difference between someone guilty who has not learnt a lesson and the one who is guilty but has not been taught a lesson,” Chaudhry said, adding that the convicts should be given a chance to reform. Chaudhry argued that Section 376(E), under which Jadhav, Bengali and Ansari were sentenced to death, made an “unequal classification between punishments awarded for repeat offences of rape on one hand, and other serious offences like grievous hurt or murder on the other”.
“If a person repeats any other serious offence, such as blinding or dismembering someone, the punishment is not as grave… the legislators either did not draft well, or did not apply their minds,” he said.
The Division Bench of Justice B P Dharmadhikari and Justice Revati Mohite-Dere will hear the case next on February 27.