In a landmark order, a Sessions Court Thursday held three convicts in the Shakti Mills gangrape case guilty under the amended IPC section for the repeat offence of rape. This is the first time that Section 376E (repeat offence of rape), which provides for the maximum penalty of death, has been applied since the criminal law was amended in February last year.
The trio — Vijay Jadhav, Mohammad Qasim and Salim Ansari — have been convicted for gangraping a 23-year-old photojournalist inside the Shakti Mills compound on August 22 last year. They were also convicted for gangraping a 19-year-old telephone operator in the same area on July 31 last year.
The court is set to pronounce the quantum of punishment on Friday.
Accepting the prosecution’s arguments, Sessions Court Principal Judge Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi said, “The section is not just for the purpose of repeat offenders but to send a strong message to like minded persons in society. The legislature wants that such tendencies are curbed.”
The court further said, “The legislature very wisely has used the word ‘previously convicted’. The section does not say that the previous conviction has to be a day, a month or a year before the subsequent conviction. Previous conviction may be a few minutes old, a day old or a decade old.”
Besides the trio, another person, Siraj Shaikh, has been convicted in the photojournalist’s gangrape case. The fifth accused is a juvenile.
The defence had challenged alteration of charges after the court had held them guilty of gangrape. “The court agreed to add this section on conviction. If they were repeat offenders, a separate FIR should have been filed and a separate trial should have been conducted,” said Moin Khan, one of the defence lawyers.
Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam cited several SC orders to draw the court’s attention to the definition of “repeat offenders”. “The section makes it abundantly clear that a person convicted in a subsequent case should be given more serious punishment. The convicts here were involved in a previous case… Although the verdict was passed the same day (March 20), they are two different crimes committed on two different days,” he said.