The Sessions court on Monday framed a new charge under section 376 (E) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) against three of the four convicts in the August 22 Shakti Mills gang rape case. This may now help the prosecution seek stronger punishment against the three.
The convicts, however, pleaded not guilty to the new charge. Hence, the court, presided over by principal judge Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi, asked the prosecution to produce evidence to prove the additional charge.
Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam on Friday had pleaded the court to add an additional charge under section 376 (E) of IPC. This is an amended clause which has been implemented after the Delhi gang rape case. Under this section, if an accused is given life imprisonment for one case of gang rape, then the same accused can be awarded capital punishment if found guilty in one more gang rape case.
Accordingly, the prosecution, while arguing on the application of the new charge against the three, held that the convicts — Vijay Jadhav, Kasim Shaikh alias Bangali and Salim Ansari — on March 20 were first convicted in the July 31, 2013 telephone operator gang rape case and after a period of 15- 20 minutes were convicted under the August 22, 2013 photojournalist gang rape case.
"Thus, this clearly matches the amended law provisions of convicting the convicts previously and subsequently in two gang rape cases. Also, if these convicts are awarded with strict punishment, it would deter other accused who have similar mindset of committing such brutality against the women," argued Nikam.
The additional charge was, however, opposed by the defence advocates appearing for the convicts. Advocate Prakash Salsingekar, who is appearing for convict Vijay Jadhav, opposed the prosecution's plea and argued, "The prosecution's argument of the court passing the verdict in the July 31 case previously and August 22 case subsequently, was wrong. As a human, we have certain limitations since we cannot do two things at a time. Thus, in the similar way, the court passed both the verdicts in a difference of 15 minutes each, and this depicts that the court passed both the verdicts simultaneously. Also, the prosecution at no earlier stage had informed the court that it wishes to run the trial in one case earlier and in the other case later, thus we request the court to reject the prosecutions plea."
The court, however, after going through the arguments advanced by the prosecution and defence, upheld the prosecution's arguments thus slapping an additional charge of section 376 (E) IPC against the three convicts.