Observing that the rape and murder of an innocent 22-year-old BPO employee in Pune has had a deep impact on the society and women travelling alone, the Bombay high court on Monday upheld the death penalty awarded to two for committing the heinous crime.
A division bench of Justices VM Kanade and PD Kode confirmed the death sentence of the two accused - Purushottam Borate and Pradeep Kokade - for kidnapping, raping and murdering the victim, an employee with Wipro BPO in Pune on November 1, 2007.
"We are confirming the death sentence awarded to the duo by the sessions court. The manner is which the offence was committed and the deep impact it has had on the society have been considered by us. Any woman will now think twice before taking a cab alone," Justice Kanade said.
After the bench pronounced its verdict, the two accused broke down in the court room.
According to the prosecution, the victim had boarded the regular cab contracted to ply employees by the company to report for night shift. Cab driver Borate who was accompanied by his friend Kokade, however, changed the route and took the victim to a remote place where she was raped by both of them.
The duo then strangled her to death using her 'dupatta' and disfigured her face inflicting injuries with a sharp weapon to hide her identity. The body was recovered the next day following which the two were arrested.
"Considering all the circumstances we feel that constraint regarding their punishment is not an option. The death penalty has been confirmed after giving it a lot of thought," the court said.
The bench had earlier observed that the duo had committed a series of acts which were very serious in nature and questioned whether those could be considered as an additional circumstance to make it "rarest of rare" case.
The court while hearing the arguments of prosecution and defence on sentencing said that the accused showing signs of remorse or repentance after committing the crime is the first indication of reformation.
The sessions court had while awarding death penalty to the two accused held that even after commission of crime the accused did not show any remorse and went about their work.
"They took the helpless victim to a secluded place and raped her turn by turn. The accused were not under duress or domination of any other persons and their acts were just for satisfying lust," the lower court said in its judgment.
While the prosecution had sought severe punishment of death for the two arguing that there was no chance of reformation, defence lawyers had sought leniency on the ground that the duo had no prior criminal record.
Public prosecutor Revati Dere argued that it was a pre-planned and pre-mediated act by the two accused who knew that it was the victim's last day at Wipro. "They had prior knowledge. They conspired the abduction, rape and murder in advance," she said.
Defence lawyer Khate had requested the court to show leniency on the grounds that the accused were young with no criminal antecedents and hence be given a chance to reform and rehabilitate.
The bench after pronouncing its verdict said it proposes to request the Chief Justice of the Bombay high court to take up the issue of forming guidelines for ensuring safety of women working the "graveyard shift" and travelling alone.
"As a criminal bench we do not have jurisdiction to take up the matter but we will request the Chief Justice to take up this matter as a Public Interest Litigation and pass certain directions to the government and companies to lay down guidelines and monitor the issue," Justice Kanade said.
After the court pronounced its verdict, the victim's brother-in-law Gaur Sunder told reporters he was happy with the verdict. "The day I carried my sister-in-law's body on my shoulders our family decided to fight the battle. Her death will now bring safety to other women," he said.
The victim, who hailed from Uttar Pradesh, was a science graduate from the University of Pune. She had joined Wipro BPO as an associate in December 2006 and was staying with her sister and brother-in-law in Panchvati area of Pashan.