Shakti Mills gang rape convicts’ death penalty commuted to life term

Three men who were convicted of gangraping a 22-year-old photojournalist inside the defunct Shakti Mills compound in central Mumbai in 2013, and sentenced to death, were awarded life imprisonment by the Bombay High Court on Thursday (November 25).

Commuting their sentence, a division bench of Justices Sadhana Jadhav and Prithviraj Chavan said Vijay Jadhav, Mohammad Qasim Shaikh and Mohammad Ansari “deserve imprisonment for life to repent the offence committed by them as death puts an end to the concept of repentance”.

The bench said it cannot ignore the fact that the offence shocked the collective conscience of the society.

“A rape victim suffers not just physically but mentally as well. It is a violation of human rights. But only public outcry cannot be taken into account. Judgment should not be guided by public outcry or public opinion,” it said.

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It added that courts have a duty to consider cases dispassionately and cannot ignore the procedure laid down by the law.

“Death puts an end to the concept of repentance. It cannot be said that the accused deserved only death penalty. They deserve imprisonment for life to repent the offence committed by them,” the judges said.

Also read: Kerala: 15-year-old boy held for attempted rape on woman

“The convicts deserve life imprisonment for the remainder of their natural life. They cannot assimilate in society as they look upon women as an object,” the court said.

Jadhav was 19 years old, Qasim Shaikh was 21 and Ansari 28 at the time of the incident in 2013.

The court quote poet Khalil Gibran in the judgement, saying, “And how shall you punish those whose remorse is already greater than their misdeeds? Is not remorse the justice which is administered by that very law which you would fain serve? Yet you cannot lay remorse upon the innocent nor lift it from the heart of the guilty.”

Advocate Yug Chaudhry, counsel for the convicts, had earlier argued that the death sentence to the three had been handed out incorrectly and that the trial had not been fair.

The state government’s counsel argued for death penalty saying it was a deterrent order.

Four men and an underage youth were found guilty of the gang rape by a sessions court in March 2014. While the minor was sent to a correctional facility, Siraj Khan was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Jadhav , Bengali and Ansari were given death penalty as they were also convicted for another gang-raping a 19-year-old telephone operator at the same place months before raping the photojournalist.

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