Mumbai, Sept. 17: Bombay High Court today confirmed the death penalty for a pool-car driver and an accomplice who had raped and murdered a call centre employee, citing their lack of remorse and the case’s importance to working women’s safety.
After raping 22-year-old Jyotikumari Chaudhary on a November night in Pune five years ago, the duo had slashed her wrists, strangled her and smashed her head with a stone before dumping the body at the spot.
“This case (raised) the question of safety of women. Any woman who will take a cab will be afraid whether she will reach the destination…. The case will have a deep impact,” the bench of Justices V.M. Kanade and P.D. Kode said.
Defence lawyer Rahul Kate had argued for a life term saying Purshottam Borate, 28, and Pradeep Kokade, 23, were young enough to reform and had widowed mothers to take care of.
But the court said the convicts’ failure to show remorse after the act indicated they were beyond reformation, echoing a British judge’s remarks on the killer of Pune boy Anuj Bidve in Manchester last year.
Borate was to drive Jyoti and a few of her colleagues to their office for the night shift. After picking up Jyoti first and murdering her, he picked up the rest, drove them to the Wipro BPO and blamed the delay on a flat tyre.
“Within a few minutes of the crime, the duo cooked up a story and showed no remorse,” prosecutor Revati Dhere argued.
She added: “The case had a tremendous impact on working women and women working on night shifts. Due to the impact of this case and a similar one in Bangalore, women stopped going to work. In the era of equal opportunities, women’s security was jeopardised. This has to be considered while awarding the death sentence.”
BPOs had announced a series of safety checks for women travelling in office pool cars at night after a driver raped and murdered call centre worker Srikant Pratibha Murthy in Bangalore in December 2005. But Jyoti’s murder in November 2007 suggested the measures had mostly remained on paper.
Many times during the arguments, the court consulted the prosecution and defence lawyers on the possible mitigating and aggravating factors, the circumstances of the convicts and their possible reformation, as prescribed by the apex court.
It commented on the abolition of the death penalty in 129 countries and on the debate over whether India should do so. In the end, it said: “We have been considering this for the past 2-3 weeks but found no other option but to confirm the sentence.”
A Pune court had awarded the death sentences on March 20, terming the case a “rarest of the rare” crime and “a pre-conceived one committed to satisfy lust”.
Jyoti’s brother-in-law Gaur Sunder lauded today’s judgment. “Jyoti cannot return but her death is bringing security to other women. That is a big solace,” he said.
The prosecution requested the court to issue guidelines for the safety of women but the bench advised it to approach the chief justice and ask that their request be treated as a public interest litigation.