New Delhi: In an unusual order, the Supreme Court on Wednesday let off three gang rapists after they claimed a "compromise formula" with the victim and agreed to pay her a fine of Rs 50,000 each for their offence.
A bench of justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra reduced to three and half years the 10-year sentence awarded to three gang rapists who took the plea that both the convicts and the victim were now happily married to different people and "wanted to live peacefully."
Under Section 376(G) of the IPC, the minimum sentence to the gang rapists is 10 years, which may extend even to life imprisonment.
SC frees rapists, agrees they can pay victim
Though Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra was not initially inclined to compound (close the case by way of fine)the matter as it was not a compoundable offence, the apex court later relented and agreed to let them off provided the convicts paid Rs 50,000 each to the victim.
The apex court ordered that "the amount shall be paid to the victim within three months", failing which the same shall be recovered under the Land Revenue Act from the trio and paid to the victim.
In this case, the convicts Baldev Singh, Gurmail Singh and Hardeep Singh, all said to be agricultural farmers, had gangraped the victim in Punjab`s Ludhiana district on March 5, 1997.
The sessions court had awarded 10 years imprisonment to the convicts.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court had dismissed the convicts` appeal, following which they appealed in the apex court.
Counsel Rajat Sharma, appearing for the convicts, told the bench that his clients had reached a compromise with the victim and it was decided to drop the case. He submitted that both the convicts and the victim wanted to bring an end to the case as they were all now married and leading their respective lives.
"We want to live peacefully," the counsel said.
The submission evoked a remark from the bench which said that "after having committed a gang rape now you want to live a peaceful life"?
Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra said the IPC provision does not provide for compounding the offence as under the statute, the court, apart from awarding a minimum of 10 years, can also impose a fine or even extend the punishment to life imprisonment.
The judge said "how can we let you all go scot-free for such an offence like gang rape? There is no provision under the law to compound the offence.
"Punishment has to be awarded so that it acts as a deterrent," the judge said.
But later as the counsel persisted with the plea that it was more than 15 years when the incident had occurred, the bench relented and said it was upholding their conviction but reducing their sentence to the three-and-half years already undergone.