A special court on Monday awarded the death sentence to seven men convicted of gang-raping and murdering a mentally challenged Nepalese woman in Rohtak in February this year.
A minor accused in the case is being tried in a juvenile court while a ninth suspect had committed suicide earlier.
The 28-year-old victim was brutally gang-raped and murdered, after which the men dumped her body at a deserted place in Akbarpur village on the Rohtak-Hisar road. The post-mortem report revealed severe injuries and stones and blades were found in the woman’s stomach.
After hearing arguments over the quantum of punishment, additional district and sessions judge Seema Singhal also imposed a fine of Rs 1.75 lakh each on the convicts, Padam, Pawan, Sunil, Sarwar, Rajesh, Sunil and Manbir, all in their twenties.
“I award the death sentence to all these accused in the case, and they should be hanged till death,” Singhal said.
“Besides a judicial officer, I am also a human being and can hear the groan of the victim. Women are still facing crime and discrimination from males in our society and we still see gender bias in our system, but the judgment should send a strong message to the people and that is the need of the hour,” she said. “We need not hide our identity behind Nirbhaya and other names. Women should tell their names with pride.”
The seven men were pronounced guilty during the last hearing on Friday and were produced in a packed courtroom amid heavy police deployment on Monday.
“I got relief from the court’s decision, but the soul of my sister will rest in peace when the accused will be hanged to death,” the victim’s sister said after the verdict.
The verdict came after the court recorded statements of 66 witnesses, most of them from police, over the past 10 months.
During arguments on the quantum of sentence, Deepak Bhardwaj, who was appointed counsel for the accused, said the police investigation did not prove all the allegations against the accused and all of them could not be held guilty of the crime based on circumstantial evidence.
Objecting to the argument, prosecution lawyer Pradeep Malik said, “The court has already held them guilty and questions cannot be raised over the probe at this stage”.
“This is the rarest of rare cases, as the accused have brutally killed a mentally challenged girl after gang rape and also inserted stones and used condoms into her private parts. I appeal the court for the death sentence to send a strong message to the society,” he added.
The defence counsel said the matter would be taken up in a higher court.