Observing that the convict "was a menace to the society," a Mumbai sessions court on Thursday awarded death sentence to the founder of an orphanage for murder of an inmate and gang rape of five mentally-challenged girls, including three minors.
One of the victims, suffering from tuberculosis, died after she was gang raped. Hence, prime accused and director of orphanage - Ramchandra Karanjule (54) - faced additional murder charge and was convicted on this count.
"He was menace to the society and life imprisonment will be highly inadequate in this case. The convict had no right to live in the society for the heinous crime he had committed," said sessions judge P V Ganediwalla while awarding capital punishment to Karanjule.
"Every day crimes against women are being committed. It is increasing day-by-day. The law changes as per the needs of the society. It is the need of the hour to create deterrent effect by imposing the highest punishment, otherwise judicial conscience will be taken for granted," the judge observed.
Karanjule and five others were convicted on Wednesday and on Thursday the court gave judgement on the quantum of punishment.
The offence was committed at the orphanage, located in Kalamboli area in Navi Mumbai and run by a private organisation, Kalyani Mahila Bal Seva Sanstha.
Of the three victims who testified in the court, one girl was mentally-challenged, while two girls were deaf and mute, who identified the main accused using signs.
Besides, awarding death sentence to Karanjule, the court sentenced to life imprisonment Khandu Kasbe, who runs a similar home in Shirdi, and Prakash Khadke, a teacher in the orphanage.
Also, orphanage superintendent Sonali Badade and caretaker Parvati Mavle were sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment. Another convict Nanabhau Karanjule, convicted for molestation, was sentenced to two-year imprisonment.
Judge Ganediwalla said that Ramchandra, in the name of running a very noble institution for the cause of mentally challenged girls, created a 'demi god' sort of impression in the minds of the prospective donors which ensured free and continuous flow of donations to the orphanage in all forms.
"He not only exploited the vulnerable, defenceless physically disabled girls but also exploited the emotions of the donors," said the court.
The prosecution's case was that 19 victims were gang-raped by three accused, while the rest were tried for other offences against juveniles.
Statements of 19 victims were recorded by a magistrate and of them, three had come before the court to testify against the accused.
Ramchandra, while holding quasi parental position, has in fact breached the trust and fiduciary relationship with the inmates of the home to satisfy his insatiable lust, it said.
The court also observed that the girls were not allowed to move around. These 19 girls were dumped in a shop-like enclosure of 250 sq ft which had no doors but rolling shutter. The girls were literally stuffed in the small room with no space to move around.
"The scars of injuries on their bodies speak for itself," the court observed.
Two untrained unqualified staff were kept to look after the girls. One of them was an illiterate old lady and other was a young girl who had an illicit relation with Ramchandra.
"The only objective behind running the orphanage was to satisfy the lust and to earn money. Ramchandra not only exploited the girls for years together but also allowed his friends to exploit the girls," the judge said.
The court also observed that the proceedings are unique and have shown the vulnerability of the orphans, especially the mentally and physically disabled girls and need for their protection.
While observing the quantum of sentence, the judge cited the Dhananjoy Chatterjee case and said that it was well settled that the death penalty should be inflicted on rarest of the rare case.
"The cumulative effect of all the circumstances which came on record shows that the present case is the rarest of the rare in its kind," observed the judge.
The judge praised the Child Welfare Committee for its efforts and observed "but for the exhausting inspection and timely action the whole episode would not have seen the light of the day."