The Punjab and Haryana High Court on March 20 upheld the death penalty for seven convicts for the rape and murder of a 27-year-old mentally challenged woman four years back in Haryana’s Rohtak.
The special division bench comprising Justices AB Chaudhari and Surinder Gupta termed the incident as a “Nirbhaya-like incident”. They dismissed the petitions filed by the perpetrators and increased the fine imposed on them to Rs 50 lakh from Rs 1.75 lakh. It ruled that they can recover the money by attaching or selling immovable properties like their agricultural land and houses.
Back on February 1, 2015, the convicts waylaid the victim and later gang-raped and murdered her. She used to live with her elder sister on Rohtak town’s outskirts.
The convicts took the victim to two places and gang-raped her after consuming alcohol. Afraid after seeing a police jeep pass by, they left the initial spot. Further, they bludgeoned the woman with bricks. After killing her, the men dumped her body in a deserted part of Akbarpur village along the Rohtak-Hisar road. Stones and razor blades were recovered from the victim’s stomach by the doctors during the post-mortem examination.
“What must be the excruciating pain to almost half-dead young woman! Then the animalism, torment, highest order of cruelty, rather tsunami of cruelty, made thereafter is bound to petrify one and all,” the court observed on the evidence that some external object had been inserted into the victim’s private parts by the convicts.
The seven people arrested in the case were sentenced to death on December 21, 2015, by Additional District and Sessions Judge Seema Singha. A fine of Rs 1.75 lakh was also imposed on each of them.
While a ninth suspect has committed suicide, an arrested minor is being tried in a juvenile court.
While upholding the death sentence, the court said, “We are shocked and aghast to see…number of injuries and nature of injuries caused to the victim…with the brutal and predatory acts of perpetrators of the barbaric crime.”
In the recent verdict, however, Justice AB Chaudhari said that he hopes imposing the enhanced fine on the perpetrators will act as an additional deterrent for potential criminals. While half of the money they give will go to the state, the rest will be given to the deceased’s sister. The properties have to be sold within two months.
The investigation officer, Sub-Inspector Mohammad Ilias, was praised by the bench for the professionalism he showed while probing the case. “It is up to the government to award him now,” it said.
The Logical Indian take
Haryana additional advocate general Deepak Sabharwal said that the brutality of this case is similar to what had happened in the 2012 Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case in Delhi. In that case too, the Supreme Court had upheld the death sentence to the accused. A minor convicted in the case was released after he completed three years in a juvenile remand home, and another convict died in prison. This incident led to widespread protests with people slamming the government for allegedly failing to provide enough security to women in the national capital.
Crime against women has been on the rise for ages now, and on several occasions, justice is delayed or denied. It has been over six years that the Nirbhaya incident occurred, and the convicts are still alive.
In cases like these, it is perhaps not enough to treat minors any less harshly. Perpetrators involved in such heinous crimes should not be shown the least amount of mercy.