Mumbai: Nearly eight months after the gangrape of a telephone operator in the abandoned Shakti Mills compound here, a sessions court today sentenced four persons convicted in the case to life imprisonment.
While sentencing the four convicts, the court observed that the offence of rape was serious and brutal.
"The offence violates the victim and the society at large. This is also the violation of the fundamental right of Right to Life and it should be kept in mind coupled with the fact that the offence of rape has caused agony on her mind," observed principal sessions judge Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi.
The court also held that the convicts - Vijay Jadhav (19), Mohammad Qasim Hafiz Shaikh alias Kasim Bengali (21), Mohammad Ansari (28) and Mohammad Ashfaque Shaikh - did not commit the offence on the spur of the moment but it was a pre-meditated conspiracy.
After the court pronounced the quantum of punishment to the four, Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam filed an application seeking framing of additional charges on the three common convicts in the photojournalist gangrape case, for repeated offence under section 376(e) of the IPC.
Shakti Mills gangrape accused, from left to right: Chand Sattar Sheikh, Vijay Jadhav, Salim Ansari, Kasim Shaikh alias Bengali, Siraj Khan
Nikam said that the maximum penalty under section 376(e) of IPC is capital punishment. The court adjourned the photojournalist gangrape case till March 24 to decide on the application after which it will proceed with the pronouncing of quantum of punishment.
The court had yesterday convicted five men for gangrape of two women, criminal conspiracy, common intention, unnatural sex, criminal intimidation, wrongful restraint, assault, destruction of evidence under IPC and other relevant sections of the Information Technology Act.
A total of seven persons, including two minors, were arrested in connection with the two gangrapes involving a telephone operator and a photojournalist in July-August 2013.
Three of the accused are common to both the cases. While Vijay Jadhav, Kasim Bengali and Mohammad Ansari were convicted in both the cases, Siraj Khan was found guilty in the photojournalist gangrape case (of August 22, last year) and Mohammad Ashfaque Shaikh in the telephone operator gangrape case at the same compound on July 31, last year.
Two minors, one in each case, are being tried by the Juvenile Justice Board separately.
Putting forth arguments on the point of sentencing yesterday, Nikam had told the court that maximum punishment provided for gangrape under Indian Penal Code is life imprisonment and sought the maximum punishment for the accused.
"These accused have a criminal tendency," he had said. Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil had yesterday welcomed the court verdict of convicting the five accused in the two gangrape cases. "The cases were tried in fastest possible time and victims have got justice....Hope this verdict will act as a deterrent," he said.
Nikam had also said that the trial of the two juveniles will begin now as the verdict in the case is out.
Maharashtra ATS chief Himanshu Roy, who had spearheaded the investigation as the crime branch chief, had also welcomed the conviction of the five persons. Roy had said that the telephone operator case was the most difficult as the victim had approached the police after a month of the incident.
"It became difficult as the case was reported a month later. However, since the Mills compound was deserted we found our evidence intact. If the location would have been a frequented place, then the case would have become worse," he said.
The 18-year-old telephone operator was gangraped by five persons in the Shakti Mills premises on July 31, last year. The 22-year-old magazine photojournalist was gangraped by five men - Vijay Jadhav, Kasim Bengali, Salim Ansari, Siraj Rehman and a minor - when she had gone to the Mills compound in Central Mumbai with a male colleague on an assignment on August 22, 2013.
The five (including a juvenile, whose case was separated), were charged with raping her there after assaulting her colleague. Vijay Jadhav, Kasim Bengali and Salim Ansari are common accused in both the cases.
The prosecution examined 44 witnesses in the photojournalist's case and 31 in the telephone operator's case. The defence examined three witnesses in the photojournalist's case and only one witness in the other case.