A sessions court on Thursday convicted all five accused in two separate cases of gangrape that occurred on the premises of an abandoned mill in central Mumbai last year.
Two young women, a photojournalist and a telephone operator, were assaulted within less than a month of each other by two groups of five men each in the dilapidated Shakti Mills compound in Mahalaxmi. In each case, one of the accused was a juvenile.
Three of the adults — Vijay Jadhav (18), Mohammed Qasim ‘Bangali’ (20) and Salim Ansari (27) — were accused in both cases, and have been convicted in both.
Siraj Rehman (24) has been convicted of the gangrape of the photojournalist, and Ashfaque Shaikh (24) of the gangrape of the telephone operator. The two juveniles are facing charges before the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB). Principal Sessions Judge Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi said, “All four accused in each case are held guilty under all charges.”
The 23-year-old photojournalist was gangraped on August 22, 2013 by four adults and a juvenile who first beat up and tied her male colleague with whom she had gone to the decrepit mill on a shooting assignment. On August 31, the 19-year-old telephone operator went to the police to complain that she had been gangraped in the same mill a month earlier on July 31.
According to the prosecution, on August 22, Jadhav and Ansari stopped the two photojournalists outside the mill around 6 pm, and asked them to take a different way into the compound. Jadhav and Ansari were then joined by Qasim, Rehman and a 16-year-old.
Once the photojournalists entered the premises, the men accused them of trespassing, and told them to meet the caretaker of the mill. One of the accused claimed the woman’s colleague resembled a person involved in a murder on the premises. The woman’s colleague was tied up with her and his belts before she was taken to another side of the mill, where the accused took turns to rape her. Ansari also showed her a porn clip on his mobile phone.
As the victim approached the police within hours of the attack, strong medical evidence could be recorded. “The DNA report, the victim’s and her colleague’s testimonies, all helped us support the case,” special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said.
In the second case, because of the delay in reporting the assault, the prosecution relied on the victim’s testimony along with circumstantial evidence.
According to the prosecution, the woman, who was on her way to Siddhivinayak temple with her then boyfriend, took a short cut through the mill. The accused overpowered them and gangraped the the woman. Scared to return to their homes, the couple fled to Chhattisgarh. They stayed there for a month, and the woman was treated at a local clinic. The woman had to undergo treatment even after the couple returned to Mumbai and approached the police. The police filed a 365-page chargesheet in the case on October 8.
On Thursday, the accused were brought to the court at 11 am, and the verdict was pronounced soon afterward. All five men broke down in the court. Their lawyers will appeal to the Bombay High Court.
Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil, who was present in the court, said, “In a short span of eight months, the court has delivered the judgment. It is a strong signal. It is a known fact that across the world, women are not secure. But it is different in Mumbai. It is by far the safest city. And to ensure that women feel more secure here, the state has been working towards curbing violence against women.”