All accused in Shakti Mills gang rape case held guilty
Five men who gang raped a 22-year-old photojournalist from a city magazine in the Shakti Mills Compound at Mahalaxmi in Mumbai on August 22, 2013, have been held guilty under section 376(d) of the IPC for gang rape and other sections including wrongful restraint, criminal intimidation and sections under the IT act, by the Mumbai Sessions court. Five men, which included a juvenile, whose case was separated, were accused of raping her and assaulting her colleague. The minor accused who was the fifth accused in the cases was yet to be tried by a juvenile justice board.
The Mumbai police within 24 hours by arresting a 17-year-old minor accused from his residence in Central Mumbai solved the case and the other accused were arrested within a week. Two weeks after the incident, an 18-year-old came forward to register a police complaint alleging that she too was gang-raped by five men, including three of the arrested accused at that very location, just three weeks earlier. Two different chargesheets were filed by the Mumbai police but due to similarities in both the cases, the two cases were clubbed by Mumbai Sessions court in October last.
The accused in this case, namely, Vijay Jadhav, Kasim Bengali, Salim Ansari and Siraj Rehman, are charged with rape, conspiracy, common intention, unnatural sex and offences under the Information Technology Act. The other case dates back to 31 July last year wherein an 18-year-old telephone operator was allegedly gang-raped by five persons including three of the accused in the first case on the same premises. The accused in this case are Mohammed Ashfaq Sheikh, Mohamed Kasim Hafiz Sheikh alias Kasim Bengali, Salim Ansari, Vijay Jadhav and a minor. While the Mumbai Sessions court tried five adult accused, of which three are common in the two gang rape cases, the two juvenile accused are being tried in the Juvenile Justice court, which does treat them as 'accused' but juvenile in conflict with law.
During the trial, special prosecutor Nikam termed the incidents as atrocious, frightening, cruel sexual assaults on two helpless, defenseless and innocent survivors. On the other hand, defense lawyers R G Gadgil and Prakash Salsingikar argued that prosecution's versions were without any evidence and fabricated ones. In the photojournalist's case 44 witnesses were examined by the prosecution whereas in the other case 31 witnesses were examined. The defense examined three witnesses in the photojournalist's case and only one witness in the other case. Maharashtra home minister, RR Patil, who was present at the time of the verdict welcomed the verdict stating that the verdict will be a deterrent.
On 6th March this year, special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam informed that court had completed recording statements of the four accused under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). According to Defense advocate Prakash Salsingikar the court had posed about 970 questions to the accused. Under Section 313 of the CrPC, a chance is provided to the accused to explain the circumstances and allegations against them, through their statements. On 19 September 2013, a 600-page chargesheet was filed by the Mumbai police crime branch against the four accused.