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Kopardi rape-and-murder case: Defence lawyer pleads for leniency as hearing begins on quantum of punishment

On November 18, key accused Jitendra Shinde, co-accused Santosh Bhaval and Nitin Bhailume were held guilty on charges of rape and murder

Kopardi rape and murder case Lawyer of accused Nitin Gopinath Bhailume pleaded for leniency on the grounds that he was a student, a Dalit and had no previous criminal record (Representational Image)

As the arguments began on Tuesday over the quantum of punishment for the three accused held guilty for the sensational rape and murder of 14-year-old girl from Kopardi village in Karjat taluka of Ahmednagar district, defence lawyer of accused Nitin Gopinath Bhailume (28) pleaded for leniency on the grounds that he was a student, a Dalit and had no previous criminal record.

Bhailume, along with the prime accused Jitendra Babubal Shinde alias Pappu (21) and co-accused Santosh Gorakh Bhaval (29), was produced before the Ahmednagar District and Sessions court around 11.15 am in the presence of huge police bandobast. On November 18, judge Suvarna Kevale had held Shinde guilty on charges of rape and murder, while Bhailume and Bhaval were convicted under Sections 120 (b) (criminal conspiracy) and 109 (abetment) of IPC.

Bhailume’s lawyer Prakash Aher claimed there was no direct evidence against him and there was no eye witness who had seen him on the crime scene. Aher told the court that Bhailume was a B.Sc final year student. “He is an educated youth and is still studying. As per the court orders, he has got the books for studying in jail. He belongs to a poor family and is a major support to his parents. His father is a labourer and mother is not well. He is a Dalit. He is not a hardened criminal. No criminal case, not even a non-cognizable (NC) offence was registered against him in the past. His future should not be spoiled. The court should show leniency towards him,” Aher said. When the judge asked Bhailume for his comments, he said he was innocent.

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Then, advocate Yohan Makasare, who represented Shinde, argued he should not get death penalty and instead be awarded life imprisonment because this was not a “rarest of the rare” case. Makasare told the court that Shinde was not a notorious criminal. “He does not have a crime record. Also, his parents and wife are dependent on him,” the lawyer said. Asked for his comments, Shinde denied his role in the murder. “Someone else has killed her..Not me,” he said. Judge Kevale then asked him if he had to say anything about the quantum of punishment. “….Whether for a day or for thousand days…punishment is punishment,” the 21-year-old said.

The court will now hear arguments over quantum of punishment for Bhaval on Wednesday, after which special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam is expected to argue for maximum punishment for the three accused persons.

According to the police, around 6.45 pm on July 13, 2016, when the victim was returning home on a bicycle from her grandfather’s house, the trio allegedly stopped her, sexually assaulted her and then murdered her. The post-mortem report had said fractured bones and internal injuries led to her death. A case was lodged at the Karjat police station following a complaint by the girl’s cousin. The incident had sparked massive protests across the state, particularly by the Maratha community, demanding death penalty for all three accused.


The police had first arrested Shinde from Shrigonda town in Ahmednagar on July 14. Bhaval was arrested from Karjat and Bhailume from Pune on July 16. The trio was booked under Sections 302, 376-2b, 354, 120 b, 109, of the IPC and Sections 6,8,16 of the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO).

According to the police, Shinde, who worked at a brick kiln, got married five years ago but then the couple had separated. He married another woman two years ago. Locals said he was an alcoholic. Bhailume, Shinde’s cousin, had shifted to Kopardi village from Karjat town three years ago and stayed with his parents. Bhaval, the oldest of the three, lived in the village with his family and worked as a farm hand. The victim was a kabaddi player and had represented the school at the district level, said the police.

The investigation team, led by inspector Shashiraj Patole, had filed a 320-page charge sheet against the three on October 7. During trial, the prosecution examined 31 witnesses. The final arguments concluded on November 8. Nikam argued there were 24 different types of circumstantial evidences against the accused.

First published on: 21-11-2017 at 16:41 IST
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