A Delhi court on Monday sentenced five men to life imprisonment for abducting and gangraping a call centre worker about four years ago, a sensational case that first drew attention to safety of women working late shifts in the city.The gang rape of the 30-year-old woman, known as the Dhaula Kuan gang rape, transfixed the city for weeks and was one of the first cases that highlighted growing sexual violence against women in Delhi, where thousands of women work in call centres.
Additional sessions judge Virender Bhat also imposed a Rs 50,000 fine on Usman, Shamshad, Shahid, Iqbal and Kamruddin to be paid to the woman to compensate for the trauma.The judge said the fine will be handed over to the rape survivor who was traumatised into leaving her lucrative job after the incident.
While the verdict was being read out, Shahid lost consciousness and had trouble breathing. He was taken away to the medics by police. His family had a breakdown outside the courtroom as they watched him being taken away.
The judge's order on the sentence echoed the words of the public prosecutor Satwinder Kaur who had urged the court to hand out the maximum punishment of life imprisonment, saying the men had a criminal record.
The court agreed with Kaur, saying "rape is a serious blow to the honour and dignity of the victim". It added that "a liberal attitude shown towards the offenders, particularly rape convicts by imposing meagre sentences or taking a sympathetic view merely on account of family background ....is against the societal interest".
Police say the men abducted the woman on November 24, 2010 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.
After 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.
Defence counsel Amit Srivastava told the court his client, Usman, had an alibi for the night: he was at a hospital for his youngest daughter’s birth. The judge dismissed the submission, saying it was "too late in the day to raise a fresh alibi".
The defence had also requested that the time served by the convicts -- nearly four years -- should be taken into account during the sentencing and they should be released at the earliest as the men were the sole bread winners for their families.