Over seven months after the gangrape of two women including a photojournalist in the abandoned Shakti Mills compound here, five persons were today held guilty by a local court which will pronounce the quantum of punishment tomorrow.
The court convicted the five men for gangrape, criminal conspiracy, common intention, unnatural sex, criminal intimidation, wrongful restraint, assault, destruction of evidence under IPC and other relevant sections of the Information Technology Act.
A total of seven persons including two minors, were arrested in connection with the two gangrapes involving a telephone operator and a photojournalist in July-August 2013.
Three of the accused are common to both the cases.
Principal sessions court judge Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi convicted Vijay Jadhav, 19, Mohammad Qasim Hafiz Shaikh alias Kasim Bengali, 21 and Mohammad Ansari, 28, in both the cases.
while Siraj Khan was found guilty in the photojournalist gangrape case (on August 22) and Mohammad Ashfaque Shaikh, in the telephone operator gangrape case at the same compound on July 31 last year.
Two minors, one in each case, are being tried by the Juvenile Justice Board separately.
Putting forth arguments on the point of sentencing, Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam told the court that the maximum punishment provided for gangrape under Indian Penal Code is life imprisonment and sought the maximum punishment for the accused.
"These accused have a criminal tendency," Nikam told the court.
Later, the case was adjourned till tomorrow for the prosecution and defense to advance arguments on the quantum of sentencing.
Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil, who was present in the court welcomed the verdict
"The cases were tried in fastest possible time and victims have got justice....Hope this verdict will act as a deterrent," he told reporters outside the court.
Nikam said the trial of the two juveniles will begin now as the verdict in the case is out. He also said that the prosecution will seek the maximum sentence provided under the law tomorrow.
Maharashtra ATS chief Himanshu Roy, who had spearheaded the investigation as the crime branch chief, welcomed the verdict.
"I welcome the verdict, but in my personal opinion the age of the juvenile in such brutal crimes should be brought down to 16 as in one of the two cases the juvenile was the most brutal one," Roy told PTI.
Roy also said that the telephone operator case was the most difficult as the victim had approached the police after a month of the incident.
"It became difficult as the case was reported a month later. However, since the Mill was deserted we found our evidence intact. If the location would have been a frequented place then the case would have become worse," he added.
The first case pertains to the gangrape of a 22-year-old magazine photojournalist who had gone to the mill compound in Central Mumbai with a male colleague on an assignment on August 22, 2013.
Five men, (including a juvenile, whose case was separated), were charged with raping her there after assaulting her colleague. They are: Vijay Jadhav, Kasim Bengali, Salim Ansari, Siraj Rehman and a minor.
The other case is of an 18-year-old telephone operator who was gangraped by five persons (including three accused in the first case) in the same premises on July 31, last year.
The accused in this case are: Mohammed Ashfaq Sheikh, Kasim Bengali, Salim Ansari, and Vijay Jadhav.
Vijay Jadhav, Kasim Bengali and Salim Ansari are common accused in both the two cases
The prosecution examined 44 witnesses in the photojournalist's case and 31 in the other case. The defence examined three witnesses in the photojournalist's case and only one witness in the other case.