Shakti Mills gang-rape case: Bombay high court commutes death sentence of three convicts to life term
Death puts an end to the whole process of repentance, suffering and mental agony, said the Bombay high court on Thursday while commuting into life imprisonment – imprisonment for the rest of their lives – the death sentence handed down to the three men convicted for gang-raping a photojournalist in defunct Shakti Mills compound at Mahalaxmi in August 2013. The high court said the trio did not deserve any leniency, empathy or sympathy, but felt that they should repent till their last breath for their crime.
“Although the offence is barbaric and heinous, it cannot be said at the threshold that the accused deserve the only death penalty and nothing less than that,” said the division bench of justice Sadhana Jadhav and justice Prithviraj Chavan while commuting the death sentence handed down by the trial court to Vijay Jadhav (18), Mohammad Qasim Shaikh Bengali (20) and Mohammed Salim Ansari into life imprisonment.
“They deserve imprisonment for life i.e. for the remainder of their natural life,” said the bench. “Every day the rising sun would remind them of the barbaric acts committed by them and the night would lay them with a heavy heart filled with guilt and remorse,” it added.
The court said the trio did not deserve to assimilate with the society, “as it would be difficult to survive in a society of such men who look upon women with derision, depravity, contempt and objects of desire.”
The bench also took into consideration the observations of the Law Commission that the death penalty does not serve the penological goal of deterrence any more than life imprisonment. “We, therefore, feel that a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for the remainder of their natural life without any remission, parole or furlough would meet the ends of justice.”
The high court also upheld the life imprisonment punishment of the fourth accused – Siraj Rehmat Khan.
On August 22, 2013, a 23-year-old photojournalist was gang-raped in the defunct Shakti Mills compound. Police investigation in the case revealed that a similar incident had occurred on July 31, 2013, when an 18-year-old call centre employee was gang-raped by the same group at the same place.
Both the cases were tried simultaneously and on March 20, 2014, the accused were convicted in both cases. The next day, the trial court sentenced the trio in the case of the call centre employee and when proceedings for sentencing in the other case were taken up, the prosecutor presented an application for amendment of the charge – for adding charge under a stringent provision contained in Section 376-E of the Indian Penal Code.
On March 24, 2014, the trial court allowed the application and invoking Section 376-E handed down the death sentence to the trio.
Section 376 (E) of the IPC was added through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, and was introduced following the 2012 Delhi gang-rape and murder case, providing life imprisonment or death sentence for second or subsequent convictions in certain rape cases, including gang-rapes.
Meanwhile, the HC, while confirming the life imprisonment sentence of Mohammad Shaikh, 25, an accused in the gang-rape of a telephone operator at Shakti Mills in July 2013, deplored the two-finger test, which the rape survivor was subjected to during her medical examination to confirm that she was raped.
The court held, “We hope that the Maharashtra government would take necessary steps to shun all such unscientific and heavily criticised “two-finger tests”. It appears that the state has formulated some guidelines. We expect and hope that the state will strictly adhere to the same.”
Shaikh had filed an appeal against the sessions court verdict which was passed on March 21, 2014.