Mumbai: A day after the landmark sessions court verdict which held three common accused in the Shakti Mills gang-rape cases guilty of being repeat offenders before their sentencing in the young photojournalist’s rape case, the special public prosecutor sought the death sentence for all three.
The prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam on Friday demanded the maximum punishment under the amended section.
The criminal law dealing with crimes against women had been amended last year to bring in section 376E of the Indian Penal Code which stipulates death sentence for repeat rape convicts.
Principal sessions judge Shalini Phansalkar Joshi is hearing the sentencing arguments and will decide on the punishment against the trio and the fourth convict in the photojournalist’s case.
It is the first time since the amendment that a court tried and convicted accused in a gang-rape case as being repeat offenders. The court had said conviction orders passed a few minutes apart on the same day between the first and subsequent case made no difference and rejected the defence plea that the first guilty verdict ought to have been passed before the second trial. The trials in the two Shakti Mills gang-rape cases had gone on simultaneously in the same court.
On Thursday, Nikam said, “Indeed I am happy to have taken recourse to the provisions in law that prescribes severe punishment to habitual rapists involved in the gang rapes.”
The sessions court had on March 20 held the three common accused guilty first for the gang rape of a 19-year-old telephone operator, for the crime committed last July 31 at the abandoned mill compound, and then within minutes for the same crime committed last August on a 22-year-old photojournalist.
In the Bombay high court when the convicts had questioned the trial court order to try them additionally for section 376E, advocate general Darius Khambata had said that since the sentence was not pronounced in the photojournalist’s case the judgment and trial was not complete and law allowed the trial court to add charges and consider the previous conviction to punish the trio for being repeat offenders.
Defence lawyers Moin Khan and R Gadgil had claimed that the new charge cannot be added after the convictions were pronounced. They had also challenged the constitutional validity of section 376E, IPC.
The HC which will continue to hear the constitutional validity challenge to IPC section 376E, had not interfered and allowed sessions court to complete the trial. The HC had however said, “non interference does not amount to approval of the charge” of section 376E framed by the trial court, kept the issues open and adjourned the matter on March 26, by six weeks.