A Mumbai sessions court on Friday sentenced the three repeat offenders in the two Shakti Mills gang-rape cases to death under the provision of section 376E under the Indian Penal Code that carries the maximum of death penalty.
It is the first time in the country that rape convicts have been sentenced to death under this section that was brought in by the new Criminal Law (Amendment) Act in 2013 after the brutal Delhi gang-rape case.
The fourth convict Siraj Rehman Khan, 24, who was involved in the photojournalist gang-rape case was sentenced to imprisonment for the rest of his natural life.
The court had on Thursday found Vijay Jadhav, 19, Mohammad Qasim Shaikh, 21, and Mohammad Salim Ansari, 28 guilty in the photojournalist gang-rape case under an amended section of the IPC, which entails death penalty, for committing repeated offence.
Principal sessions judge Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi, while passing the judgment on Friday, said if this not the case where death sentence prescribed by law is not valid, which is.
She said the gang-rape was pre-planned and not a spontaneous act of lust while rejecting the defence argument that the survivor is alive and accused did not rob or hurt her.
"The gang-rape accused were not only enjoying the act of sexual assault but also the survivor's helplessness. It was executed in the most gruesome manner with no mercy or show of human dignity to the survivor, " said Phansalkar-Joshi.
"The accused were acting in pursuance of criminal conspiracy as judicially proved," she said.
The judge said the accused have least regard for the law and do not have the potential for reformation as per facts of the case.
Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam had demanded death penalty for the trio and life imprisonment for another accused.
"The accused are sex-starved goons in shape of humans. They deserve maximum sentence," Nikam told the court.
"Any leniency shown to the accused would be a mockery of justice. Their crime has shocked collective consciousness," he argued.
The defence lawyer had argued the accused did not want to hurt the survivor or her friend adding they did not use any weapon.
After the trio was convicted in the gang-rapes of both the photojournalist and a telephone operator, special public prosecutor Nikam had moved an application to add this charge against them.
A total of six witnesses were examined and after final arguments by the prosecution and defence, the court gave the verdict.
A photojournalist and a telephone operator were gang-raped by five men at the Shakti Mill compound in central Mumbai last year. With three convicts common to both cases, a total of five persons were put to trial in October.
On March 20, the court found the five persons guilty in both cases and sentenced four of them for rest of their natural life in the telephone operator case.
(With inputs from Mohamed Thaver)