Zee Media Bureau
Mumbai: A sessions court on Friday awarded death sentence to three convicts for gang-raping a photojournalist at the Shakti Mills Compound here last year.
The court also awarded a life term for the fourth convict in the case. "The three repeat offenders have also been given life sentence for unnatural sex," public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam told reporters. Welcoming the court`s decision, Nikam said that rape is another form of murder.
The 22-year-old photojournalist was raped by Vijay Jadhav, Kasim Bengali, Salim Ansari, Siraj Rehman and a minor boy when she had gone to the Shakti Mills with a male colleague on an assignment.
The three convicts were yesterday held guilty under the amended Section 376(e) of Indian Penal Code for the repeat offence of rape, which made them liable for the maximum sentence of death.
This is the first time in the country that the section 376(e) has been applied on persons convicted for heinous crimes such as gang-rape.
Principal Sessions Judge Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi convicted Vijay Jadhav (19), Kasim Bengali (21) and Mohammed Salim Ansari (28) under section 376(e) of IPC.
Holding that the section 376 (e) was applicable, the court said, "Legislature wants to ensure that such tendency should be crushed."
`The three were earlier convicted in the case related to gang-rape of a telephone operator at the Shakti Mills compound and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Accepting special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam`s argument, judge Joshi earlier said the crux of the matter is whether the accused have been previously convicted when the (additional) charges (under section 376 (e)) were framed in the present case.
The court rejected the defence argument that charges under the new section should have been framed earlier. "The charges can be framed only when the previous conviction is recorded," the judge said.
Section 376(e) doesn`t constitute any independent or separate offence but provides for enhancement of the sentence for those who are previously convicted, the court said.
"The entire tenor of the section makes it clear that it is intended for enhancement of punishment... The court is not dealing with a new offence but adding a new charge to ensure that the principle of natural justice is adhered to," observed the judge.
The court also rejected the defence argument that the section is only applicable if the accused commits the offence after he is convicted. In the present case, trials of both cases were held simultaneously.
"If that was the intent of the legislature, it would not have used the word conviction but would have said that it was applicable to the accused who commits the offence after he undergoes the sentence," the court said.
The court also observed that under section 376 (d) (gang-rape) the minimum punishment is 20 years and the maximum is life. "Under the provision of 376(e) it is therefore not expected that the convict will go in (to jail), come out and then will commit an offence," the court said.
The two gang-rapes, involving two different women, took place within a few weeks at the Shakti Mills compound in central Mumbai last year, shocking the metropolis.
The court also termed the defence lawyers` argument that the judgements in both the cases were pronounced simultaneously as legally not tenable.
An 18-year-old telephone operator was gang-raped on the deserted premises of Shakti Mills in July last year. This was followed by gang-rape of a photojournalist on the same premises on August 22, 2013.
The Bombay High Court had last week refused to interfere with the sessions court`s decision to frame a fresh charge for the repeat offence of rape.
With PTI inputs