Mumbai: A month after a local court awarded death penalty to Ramchandra Karanjule for the murder of an inmate and gang-rape of five mentally-challenged girls in an orphanage, he has approached the Bombay High Court challenging the order.
The Sessions Court had on March 21 convicted Ramchandra and five others for gang-raping five girls, including three minors, at an orphanage run by a private trust Kalyani Mahila Bal Seva Sanstha at Kalamboli in Navi Mumbai.
Ramchandra, the director of the orphanage and the prime accused, was awarded the death penalty after it came to light during the trial that one of the victims, suffering from tuberculosis, had died after she was gang-raped.
Two other accused-- Khandu Kasbe and Prakash Khadke-- were awarded life imprisonment. The orphanage`s superintendent Sonali Badade and caretaker were sentenced to 10 years in jail and another accused Nanabhau Karanjule was convicted on a lesser charge of molestation and sentenced to two years.
Four other accused - Dhirubhai Limbani, Narendra Mehta, Surekha Karanjule and Kalyani Karanjule - were acquitted due to lack of evidence.
"We have filed an appeal on behalf of Ramchandra Karanjule on April 20 in the high court challenging his death penalty. We are in the process of filing appeals for Sonali Badade and Nanabhau Karanjule," advocate Mahesh Vaswani said.
According to the appeal, the lower court`s order was perverse, bad in Law and without application of mind. "There are errors apparent on the face of the said order and the same has caused grave miscarriage of justice to the Appellant and deserves to be quashed and set aside," the appeal states.
It further states that the lower court has placed heavy reliance on the testimony of the complainant in the case which was not corroborated with any other evidence by the prosecution.
The lower court, while awarding the maximum punishment of death to Ramchandra observed that he was a menace to the society and life imprisonment would be highly inadequate.
"Everyday crimes against women are being committed and it is increasing day by day. The law changes as per the needs of the society. It is the need of the hour to create deterrent effect by imposing the highest punishment, otherwise judicial conscience will be taken for granted," Sessions Judge PV Ganediwalla had said.
The lower court had observed that in the name of running a very noble institution for the cause of mentally challenged girls, Ramchandra created a `demi god` sort of impression in the minds of prospective donors which ensured free and continuous flow of donations to the orphanage.
"He not only exploited the vulnerable, defenceless physically-disabled girls, but also exploited the emotions of the donors," said the court.
The prosecution`s case was that 19 victims were gang raped by three accused. Statements of 19 victims were recorded by a magistrate and of them, three had come before the court to testify against the accused.
"Ramchandra, while holding quasi parental position, breached the trust and fiduciary relationship with the inmates of the home to satisfy his insatiable lust," the court said.
The court also observed that the girls were not allowed to move around. These 19 girls were dumped in a shop-like enclosure of 250 sq ft which had no doors but rolling shutter. The girls were literally stuffed in the small room with no space to move around.
"The scars of injuries on their bodies speak for itself," the court observed.
"The only objective behind running the orphanage was to satisfy the lust and to earn money. Ramchandra not only exploited the girls for years together but also allowed his friends to exploit the girls," the judge said.