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All three convicts get death sentence in Kopardi rape-murder case

The rape and murder of a 15-year-old Maratha girl last July at Kopardi village in Ahmednagar district had triggered widespread protests from the community across Maharashtra.

india Updated: Nov 30, 2017 15:19 IST
Yogesh Joshi
Yogesh Joshi
Hindustan Times, Pune
Kopardi rape,Kopardi rape and murder,Kopardi rape and murder case
Maratha community members hold a protest rally, demanding justice in Kopardi rape and murder case in Sangli last September. (Uday Deolekar/HT File Photo)

An Ahmednagar court on Wednesday awarded death sentence to three men for the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl in Maharashtra’s Kopardi village in 2016 that triggered statewide protests.

Jitendra Babulal Shinde, 25, Santosh Gorakh Bhaval, 30, and Nitin Gopinath Bhailume, 23, were sentenced to death for rape, murder and criminal conspiracy, special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said.

“Today my little girl got justice in the true sense,” the teenager’s mother, who broke down after hearing the judge’s order, said.

The death penalty would have to be confirmed by the Bombay high court.

Considering the caste sensitivities, security was tight around the court of additional special judge Suvarna Kevale who had found the three men guilty on November 18 under the stringent protection of children from sexual offences act (Pocso). Pocso cases are tried in separate courts.

“The judgment will be a deterrent for other criminals,” Nikam said.

The girl, a Class 9 student, was raped and murdered on July 13, 2016 in Ahmednagar district’s at Kopardi village, 120km from Pune.

She was returning home from her grandfather’s house in the same village when the three men grabbed her and took her to an isolated place, the charge sheet said.

Four or five days before the incident, the accused had stopped the girl and tried to molest her, Nikam told the court. When she resisted, two of them threatened her.

On July 13, 2016, the three were moving around on their motorcycles to keep a watch on the girl, Nikam said.

The incident assumed casteist and political overtones, as the girl belonged to the Maratha community and three men were Dalits.

Silent marches (mook morcha) were held by Marathas across the state seeking speedy justice for the girl and some Dalits were attacked in neighbouring Nashik.

The Nationalist Congress Party and Congress demanded chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ resignation on moral grounds.

The protests forced the government to appoint noted criminal lawyer Nikam, who has appeared in several high-profile cases including the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, as the special public prosecutor.

“We thank the public prosecutor, chief minister and the entire Maratha community for their efforts in bringing the accused to books,” the girl’s father said.

First Published: Nov 29, 2017 12:03 IST