January 19, 2022 9:51:30 am
The Bombay High Court ruling on Tuesday to commute the death sentence of two sisters Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit to life imprisonment, brings yet another turn in the story that had shaken the country in the mid-90s. The two women are currently lodged in Yerawada Central Prison and who along with their now deceased mother were charged and convicted for kidnapping and killing several children between 1990 and 1996 at various places.
While setting aside the warrant issued to execute their death sentence, the HC observed in its ruling that the state machinery showed ‘laxity and indifference’ in deciding their mercy plea . Renuka and Seema are now in their early 50s and late 40s respectively.
The two half sisters Renuka Shinde and Seema Gawit and their late mother Anjana, were habitual thieves. Police probes at the time revealed that they used to kidnap children from various places and used these children as bait to divert attention of the people before stealing or used them as distraction after getting caught while stealing.
In November 1996, Anjana, Renuka and Seema were arrested along with Renuka’s husband Kiran Shinde, who later turned an approver in the case. They were charged with 13 kidnappings of children, murders of nine of them and attempted kidnapping of one more child, which had taken place between June 1990 and October 1996. In 1998 Anjana died of an illness at the age of 50 before the trial began. The two half sisters were sentenced to death in 2001 by a court in Kolhapur for kidnappings and murders of six of the children. High Court upheld their sentence for five murders. In 2006, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence and in 2014, their mercy petition made to the President of India was rejected.
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Anjana had started committing petty street thefts by using her daughters as bait or distraction to people. Anjana kept moving from places to places including Nashik, Kolhapur and Pune. From 1990 they started kidnapping and children and also murdered some of them. These incidents took place in Pune, Thane, Kalyan, Kolhapur, and Nashik over the next few years, with most of the cases registered in Kolhapur, where they were later tried in the sessions court. Probe has revealed that the trio committed their first murder, of a boy, after hitting him againsta pole to injure him to distract the attention after one of the daughters was caught stealing.
Anjana, Seema, Renuka and Kiran were arrested in Nashik for the kidnapping of a girl, who was the daughter of one of Anjana’s two husbands from his other marriage. This was the starting point of the probe from where the investigators traced back their crimes from the past. Investigators believed that the numbers of kidnappings and murders could have been more than what they came to prosecuted for.
After an initial probe, the case was taken over by the state Criminal Investigation Department. Suhas Nadgauda, who is currently posted as Additional Superintendent of Police with the Anti Corruption Bureau in Pune was one of the investigating team for the case.
Speaking to Express, Nadgauda said, “While, the crimes first came to light in Nashik, probe had revealed that they had started kidnapping and murders from Kolhapur. It was an extensive probe spread over multiple places. During the trial, 156 prosecution witnesses were examined and the Special Public Prosecutor Ujwal Nikam argued that it was the rarest of the rare crimes.” The trial court sentenced them to death for the kidnappings and of six of the murders. Probe had revealed that most of the children kidnapped and murdered by the Anjana and her daughters were from poor families.
Kolhapur based lawyer Manik Mulik who represented the three mother and daughters in their trial, spoke to Express after Tuesday’s High Court ruling, “I am glad that the HC has commuted their death sentence. Having spent over 20 years on death row, they have gone through what is even worse than a death sentence. If we think from their side, it crosses my mind that if they were hanged soon after they were convicted, they would not have lived this long with the notion of being the worst of the human being. Until three years ago, I was in contact with the eldest of the three children of Renuka.”
Adv Mulik adds, “We must not forget, the case was mostly based on the statement of approver Kiran Shinde. When he was first arrested, he gave a confessional statement naming Anjana as the prime accused and sisters having little role to play. After Anjana died, he changed his statement and named his own wife and half-sister-in-law. When I look back at the case, I feel that as society we were not objective about the facts in the case. Our minds had already labeled them. This is because it was a shock for all of us as we were all horrified because very common women were charged with the most brutal of the crimes.”
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