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Months pass after Pune night alert

Mumbai, Jan. 2: The call to act — and fast — had come three months ago.

On September 17, Bombay High Court, while confirming the death sentence of two convicts for raping and murdering a 22-year-old BPO employee in Pune, had expressed concern over safety of women travelling at night.

The court, in its order, said it was necessary to lay down guidelines or issue appropriate directives to the government.

It also requested the chief justice to take suo motu cognisance of the issue, converting the request into a public interest petition.

Before the court’s concerns could be addressed through the PIL, a band of similarly depraved men struck again, this time on Delhi’s nocturnal roads.

It led to a wave of outrage at the brutality of the assault that ultimately killed the victim.

On November 1, 2007, the BPO employee too had been brutalised in Pune while she was on her way to night-shift duty.

The accused, driver Purshottam Borate, 26, had taken a different route as she spoke on the phone with a friend.

Borate drove to a secluded spot where he and his accomplice, Pradeep Kokade, 23, raped the girl from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. Then they murdered her.

A Pune trial court sentenced the two to death in March this year, five years after the crime.

“Whatever protests and attention such cases get are welcome, but the battles are fought in court,” said the victim’s relative Shishir Pundalik.

“Death sentence was awarded in this case, so a deterrent is present in law, but its effectiveness can be questioned. People think they can get away because of the time taken and the taboo associated with such cases. Legal reforms, which could make the process quicker and give the punishment within two years, will act as a deterrent and instil fear of law,” he added.

The ruling was the country’s first such in similar cases of crimes against women in the BPO sector.

The court said the murder showed the brutality of the accused — the two had slashed their victim’s wrists, strangled her and smashed her head with a stone before dumping her — making it a rarest of rare case.

The lawyers for the accused had argued that the case did not fall in such a category, but the judge said the “collective conscience of the community” had been “so shocked” that imposing an alternative sentence, such as life imprisonment, “would not meet the ends of justice”.

“Rather, it would tempt other potential offenders to commit such crimes and get away with lesser punishment,” the court said.

The high court upheld the sentence, saying the case had made a deep impact on society and raised questions about safety of women.

The court said the crime was committed in a “diabolical and cold-blooded manner” and the two had “shown total disregard” for the “civilised and moral values of showing respect and dignity to a woman and her life”.

Public prosecutor Revati Dhere, who represented the state government during the trial in the high court, said the Pune rape and murder had shocked the collective conscience of society, with its “larger impact felt on working women”.

“The Delhi incident reiterates that shock. Faster execution of a severe punishment, not just at the trial level but right till the mercy plea before the President, will alone act as a deterrent in such cases.”