“They deserved death. If there was any harsher punishment than this, their crimes would merit that too,” said the distraught mother of the telephone operator who was gang-raped inside Shakti Mills Compound on July 31 last year.
The Shakti Mills Compound where both the gang rapes took place
Even as three men convicted of the crime received the death sentence yesterday, the verdict is a small triumph for the mother and her daughter, who are still struggling to come to terms with the trauma of the experience, and the humiliation that has become a part of their daily lives ever since.
The survivor’s mother, who works as a security guard with a private firm, added, “This crime is a blot on society. If rapists like them are set free, it will only encourage molesters and rapists, and send a wrong message to society. Also, it is necessary that equal urgency is shown in all rape and molestation cases.”
The telephone operator was gang-raped on July 31 in the Shakti Mills Compund, where she had gone with her former boyfriend. The survivor’s mother was on tenterhooks that night, as her daughter didn’t return home.
The worried mother’s relief was short-lived when her daughter came back, as she brought back a horrifying account of what she had been done to her. Later that month, the news of a photojournalist’s gang rape in the same compound hit the headlines. With three accused common to both cases, the police combined the two and submitted it for trial.
“This incident has changed our lives. We live in a locality where word spreads very fast. Some of our neighbours have made our lives hell. They taunt us when we pass. While she has been struggling to overcome the trauma, the local boys have not been letting her do that. She is often chased by youths in the area. When we venture out for family functions, we feel the difference in our relatives’ approach towards us,” said the woman’s mother.
Living in constant fear, the woman locks her daughter inside their house before leaving for work. “How do I leave her at someone else’s mercy, after this? She hardly goes to night school these days. I have lost faith in everyone. To divert her mind, I have enrolled her in a basic computer course. But on most days, I accompany her till she enters the classroom.”
The woman added that since the time of the incident, her work has suffered immeasurably. Thankfully, her colleagues at office, who are aware of the crime her daughter was subjected to, have helped her out by letting her devote more time to her child. The survivor’s elder sister has been staying in a boarding school for the past two years.
The traumatised woman admitted that even when she is at work, her thoughts lie with her daughter back home. Every hour, she keeps checking on her daughter, with the help of her neighbours. “She does all the household work, watches TV and reads newspapers at home. When I am away, I keep talking to her over the phone to ensure that she is safe,” she added.
There are days when her daughter becomes irritable. She has received psychiatric treatment in an attempt to overcome the trauma of the incident. She follows tips given by her doctors to deal with the depression, such as counting numbers on her fingertips.
Informed that the verdict is considered by lawyers as among the fastest in a gang-rape case, the mother said, “The elections also have a role to play in this conviction. If the elections were far, the sentencing would have taken much longer.”
Upset with ex-boyfriend
The survivor’s mother also denied reports that her daughter has married her boyfriend. “We are completely cut off from him. He is responsible for whatever has happened. Now that the culprits have met their fate, I will deal with this guy separately. He has also been harassing my daughter. I have complained against him to the local police, she said.
This is the first instance of using the new law in the shape of Section 376 (e) (repeat offence of rape) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
However, whenever a trial court hands down a death sentence to any accused tried for whatever offence, the same is not executable unless it is confirmed by the division bench of High Court by way of statutory provisions under the Criminal Procedure Code.
Hence this historic judgment and sentence is also subject to confirmation, and therefore we will have to await the concurrence of defence of the Honorable High Court in this case.
However, the speed with which the case was investigated and tried needs to be appreciated and as such with the same pace the conformation proceedings should also be concluded so as to send a strong message to the offenders of such ghastly crimes. - Majeed Memon, senior criminal lawyer
The crime committed was absolutely heinous and hence conviction needed to be a deterrent. However, this order is challengeable and it is essential that it is interpreted appropriately by the higher court.
The conviction, given by the trial court should be taken to the higher court in such a manner that the same is able to achieve finality. One cannot yet call the conviction a final one, as even if the trial court may have convicted the three accused, yet within the period of appeal, the higher courts may stay it.
Then it would not mean conviction. As per the amended law, in the first conviction the minimum the punishment is 20 years and it is mandatory, and the higher punishment in repeat conviction that comes under IPC 376 (e). - Rohini Salian, special public prosecutor of the National Investigation Agency (NIA)
I was present in court and heard the argument put forth by the Public Prosecutor to justify the conviction. The Public Prosecutor put forth the aggravating circumstances, which justify only death sentence.
The accused, despite having previously signed a bond of good behaviour, committed a heinous offence within that bond period. Death sentence is generally known to be given in rare cases, where the victim goes into a vegetative state or if the grave offence has been repeated.
Keeping in mind the safety and security of women, such deterrent punishment is needed, and such an act deserves no leniency whatsoever. Only if the new law is exercised and invoked would a strong message go out to the society.
The judge did find this the rarest of rare offence to deliver a death sentence. Rape is not just bodily harm but indignity and worst than a death sentence. In this case the accused do not fit the bill for any compassionate grounds as well. - Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar, advocate and member of National Commission for Women
- As told to Richa Pinto