|The six convicts on Monday. Picture by UB Photos
Tura, March 24: All the six convicts in the Williamnagar gang-rape case were today awarded 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5,000 each, or rigorous imprisonment for another six months in case of default, by a fast-track court here.
The six convicts are Laston Marak, Tobath Sangma, also known as Patrick, Platon C. Marak, Chengchow D. Sangma, Kisen N. Marak and Chingkam Ch. Marak, alias Chiong, all in the age group of 18-20 years.
The other 10 youths, of the 16 involved in the crime, are being dealt with by the Juvenile Justice Board in Williamnagar in East Garo Hills district. The crime had taken place at Williamnagar on December 13, 2012.
Pleading for punishment less than the minimum prescribed under Section 376 (2) (g) IPC, which is 10 years, for the accused, defence counsel M.L. Thangal argued that the accused were very young and were first-time offenders and, hence not a menace to society.
He also said they had been drinking during the winter festival, were inebriated and “unaware of the seriousness” of the offence.
“The accused are not criminals and were in a holiday mood. They lost their sense of control, leading to the crime. The accused were witness to a beauty pageant, which was held as part of the winter festival in Williamnagar. The beautiful girls were wearing tiny clothes. The boys were drinking. Once they saw the three girls, without thinking of the consequences they chased them,” Thangal said, seeking lenience. He also argued that it was herd mentality and hence no one was responsible for the actions of the others. “The crime was not pre-planned and all the accused are just above 18. They have served a jail term of 15 months and should be given scope for reformation,” he pleaded.
Public prosecutor Sebastin Joseph sought imposition of punishment not less than the minimum prescribed under IPC. “The incident took place prior to the amendment of the act, which was done in February 2013. Under the old act of the IPC, there is a provision for the discretion of the judge. I wanted more severe punishment but the judge has considered the tender age of the convicts.”
Ad hoc judge N.D. Sangma said, “This court finds no special reason to award a sentence lesser than the minimum prescribed for the offence under Section 376 (2) (g) IPC.”
The six convicts were also sentenced for a period of one year with fine of Rs 1,000 each under Section 323 IPC for having voluntarily caused hurt and injuries without provocation to the victim. In case of default in paying fine, the court awarded rigorous imprisonment for another month. The convicts were also sentenced under Section 341 IPC for one month with a fine of Rs 500 for having wrongfully restrained the victim and pinned her down on the ground by sheer use of force. The court said, “The fine amounts, if and when deposited, shall be paid to the rape victim through her parents”.
Not a single parent or guardian of the convicts was present during the pronouncement of the sentencing. Thangal said the accused could appeal to a higher court if they so desired.
Reacting to the judgment, SBI assistant general manager Nixon Joseph said, “I think it should be 20 years’ rigorous imprisonment, so that it would serve as a lesson for others.”
Tisdali B. Sangma, a retired government servant, said, “Today we can breathe a little easier. I hope the conviction will deter people from committing such crimes in future,”
Entrepreneur Sweta Das said, “It is heartbreaking to see that even women in a matrilineal state are not safe. I welcome the sentence.”
A coal trader from Nongalbibra, Chiang D. Shira, said, “The sentence shows that if people commit such heinous crimes, then there is no chance that they will be spared. I welcome that.”
Activist Agnes Kharshiing from Shillong said, “It shows that the whole judiciary and police have worked together for speedy justice. It is a good judgment in favour of the victim.”
Budha Dev Prasad, administrator of a university, said, “I welcome the judgment. This will serve as a deterrent for such offences.”
College student Tushar Alam, said, “Justice done! It shows the rule of the law is still alive.”
Adinson Ch Momin, president of A’chik Youth Welfare Organisation, said, “The punishment should serve as an example for those who think the justice system does not work. The perseverance of the family has been exemplary and we salute their courage.”