A city court on Friday set October 20 to give its sentence to five men who had been found guilty of abducting and gang-raping a call centre employee in Delhi in 2010, one of the first cases that drew attention to growing sexual violence against women in the city.
After hearing arguments on quantum of sentence from both prosecution and defence, additional sessions Judge Virender Bhat reserved his order on sentence for convicts Usman, Shamshad, Shahid, Iqbal and Kamruddin.
It had on Tuesday found them guilty of working together to kidnap, gang-rape, and criminally intimidate the 30-year-old rape survivor on November 24, 2010.
The sensational gang rape of the 30-year-old woman, known as the Dhaula Kuan gang rape, transfixed the city for weeks and brought into focus the issue of safety of working women – especially women working late shifts at call centres – in India.
During arguments, counsel for Usman's defence asked for mercy for him as he had a family dependant on him including an ailing mother and three children. The other accused also pleaded for lesser sentences as they were the sole providers for their families.
Opposing leniency, the prosecution said the men had committed a pre-planned crime. They'd abducted the woman while she was walking home with a colleague near Dhaula Kuan after being dropped off by an office cab after midnight.
They grabbed the women, threatened them with a country-made pistol and tried to force them into their vehicle, but the victim’s friend managed to escape after a brief struggle and call police. The five men drove to west Delhi’s Mangolpuri where they took turns raping her and then dumped her on an isolated road.
Following the incident, Delhi Police ordered call centres in the NCR to drop female employees home safely and provide them security while travelling at night. The department also instructed PCR vans to be visible on roads and one officer to remain outside every such vehicle at all times.
All five accused had said they had been falsely implicated. Usman’s counsel said police tampered with DNA evidence to procure a guilty verdict. The court dismissed the contentions and added that the convicts Usman and Shamshad had confessed to the crime in disclosure statements to police.
The victim's father had told HT she was threatened and also offered money to withdraw her complaint.
“My daughter has received threat calls from unknown people to withdraw the case. Initially they offered us money to keep our mouths shut but when we did not accept their offers they started threatening us. We had to move her back home fearing her life,” said her father.
According to him, his daughter had fought to move from the north-east to Delhi where after a yearlong job search she managed to find a job in a call centre in Gurgaon.
A recent Commonwealth survey found that a rape has taken place every 25 minutes in India over the past 13 years, though activists say only 10% of sexual violence cases are actually reported to police.
The brutal gang rape of a young medical student in Delhi in December 2012 forced the government to amend existing laws and criminalise voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of women.
The law, passed by Parliament in March 2013, also makes it a crime for police officers to refuse to open cases when complaints are made.
The prosecution also said such violent crimes agianst women were on the rise in the capital, and agaisnt such a background, the court could not take a lenient view in sentencing these five men.