OP Jindal University Gangrape Case: SC Directs Punjab & Haryana HC To Decide On Accused’s Appeals In 5 Months

OP Jindal University Gangrape Case: SC Directs Punjab & Haryana HC To Decide On Accused’s Appeals In 5 Months

A Supreme Court bench of Justice SA Bobde and Justice L Nageswar Rao on Thursday asked the Punjab and Haryana High Court to decide in five months the appeals of the accused in the OP Jindal University gangrape case.

The court made it clear that its two interim orders i.e., 1. staying the high court’s suspension of sentence order and 2. protecting accused Vikas Garg from arrest, will continue till the appeals are decided.

“In the interest of justice, we don’t propose to discuss on merits of the case, since appeals are pending in the high court. We find it appropriate that 2 interim orders passed by this court ... will remain in force till pending of the appeals. We request the high court to hear and decide the appeal not later than 5 months. Parties are directed to appear before the high court on March 6.”

The bench passed the order while hearing the plea of rape victim against the high court’s suspension of s order.

In March last year, a trial court in Sonipat had held three guilty for the offence and awarded a 20-year sentence to Hardik Sikri and Karan Chhabra each for gangrape and blackmailing her and a 7-year jail term to Vikas Garg for rape and blackmailing her.

While hearing their appeals in September 2017, the high court had suspended their sentence on the ground that the woman was “promiscuous” and had “casual sexual escapades” and directed Sikri and Chhabra to be released on bail. Accused Garg was already on bail since December 2016 during the trial.

Later, the apex court had stayed the high court’s September order suspending the sentence of the accused.

Last month, Sikri and Chhabra had surrendered before the trial court but the apex court had protected Garg from arrest.

The Supreme Court on Thursday passed the order after victim’s counsel senior advocate Colin Gonsalves and senior advocates Shanti Bhushan, for accused Sikri; Huzefa Ahmadi for accused Chhabra; and Sidharth Luthra for accused Garg agreed to the proposition that the high court will be asked to decide the appeals in a fixed time.

During the course of argument on the issue of sharing the iCloud account password with the victim, Shanti Bhushan filed an affidavit and claimed that his client could not remember the password as he was in jail for more than 2 and half years and never used the account in iPhone which was seized by the investigating agency.

The bench has accepted the reason cited by the accused.

The girl has alleged that she was blackmailed by the accused as some of her nude photos were with the accused.

Chhabra’s counsel senior advocate Ahmed argued that the accused are students and there were variations in the girl’s statement so far as Chhabra is concerned that she had physical relation only with Sikri but not with others.

The bench declined to hear the submissions saying it will not go into the merits of the case as the high court to decide it.

Seeking relief for accused Garg, senior advocate Luthra argued that his client was sentenced to 7-year jail for rape but not for gangrape and he was on bail during the trial itself. This court in January also protected Garg form arrest keeping in mind his conduct during the bail period, it said.

The girl had lodged a complaint to the university administration on April 11, 2015, alleging that the trio, final year law students of the university, have been blackmailing and raping her since August 2013.

She also alleged that the accused had her objectionable photos and they used to threaten her for making the photos viral.
The victim alleged that she was being blackmailed and forced to make physical relations with them.