Mumbai, March 21: The packed courtroom of principal judge Shalini Phansalkar fell silent this afternoon as she prepared to read out the sentence of the four men convicted of raping a teenage telephone operator in the Shakti Mills compound.
The convicts — Vijay Jadhav, 19, Mohammad Qasim Sheikh alias Qasim Bengali, 21, Mohammad Ansari, 28, and Ashfaque Shaikh, 26 — and their families were in tears when Joshi handed them the maximum punishment of imprisonment for the rest of their lives.
Observing that the offence was brutal and pre-mediated, the court said: “The offence violates the victim and the society at large. This is also a violation of the fundamental right of Right to Life. It should be kept in mind that the offence of rape has caused her agony. This court has to take a stern view of crimes against women so that a proper message is sent to the society.”
The men were yesterday held guilty of gang-raping the 18-year-old in the abandoned mill compound near Mahalaxmi last July. Three of them, along with a fourth, were also convicted yesterday of the gang rape of a 22-year-old photojournalist on the same premises in August.
The verdict came after 90 minutes of arguments on the quantum of sentence.
Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam then moved an application seeking permission to frame an additional charge against the three common convicts under Section 376 (E) of the IPC. Under this section, repeat offenders can be given the death penalty.
The court adjourned hearing in the photojournalist’s case till March 24 to decide on the application.
Earlier, when the court proceedings began at 11am, defence lawyer Prakash Salsingekar sought leniency on the grounds that the convicts were poor and the sole earning members of their families. Two of the accused are barely out of teens and they should be given a chance to reform, he said, arguing for the minimum punishment of 20 years in jail.
Prosecutor Nikam sought the maximum punishment on the grounds that the gang rape was brutal and had left a mental scar on the survivor. “July 31, 2013, is the most hateful day in the life of the victim who was forced to leave Mumbai and go to her native place as she couldn’t bear the trauma. She returned only a month later. All she had done was take the short cut through Shakti Mills to go to the Mahalaxmi temple with her boyfriend,” he said, adding that the couple were about to get married.