Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Friday commuted the death sentence awarded to Ramchandra Karanjule, the former director of an orphanage in Navi Mumbai, for murdering an inmate and gangraping five mentally challenged girls at the premises.
A division bench of Justices R V More and Anuja Prabhudessai partly allowed the appeal filed by Karanjule challenging the death penalty awarded to him after he was convicted by a sessions court on charges of murder and gangrape and sentenced him to 10 years rigorous imprisonment.
"The applicant accused (Karanjule) is acquitted under section 302 (murder). He stands convicted under sections 376 (2)(c) and 376 (2)(g) (gang-rape) and sentenced to ten years rigorous imprisonment with fine of Rs 50,000 each," the high court said today.
A total of six convicts, including Karanjule, had approached the high court after the sessions court convicted them in March 2013 on various charges in a case of murder of an inmate and gangrape of five girls, including three minors, at an orphanage run by private trust 'Kalyani Mahila Bal Seva Sanstha' at Kalamboli in Navi Mumbai.
Apart from Karanjule, the others convicted by the HC are - Nanabhau Karanjule, Khandu Kasbe, (both acquaintances of Ramchandra Karanjule), and Sonali Badade (orphanage superintendent) and Parvati Mavale (caretaker). The high court, meanwhile, acquitted Prakash Khadke (acquaintance of Ramchandra Karanjule) from all charges.
The high court today upheld conviction under section 354 (molestation) and two-year sentence handed over to Nanabhau Karanjule. The HC convicted Khandu Kasbe under section 376 (2)(g) and sentenced him to ten years imprisonment along with Rs 50,000 fine.
The orphanage's superintendent, Sonali Badade, was acquitted by the HC under the charge of attempt to murder, but convicted on a lesser charge of causing hurt and sentenced to one year in jail along with Rs 2,000 fine.
Similarly, Parvati Mavale was convicted by the high court for causing hurt, under section 324 of IPC, and sentenced to one year in jail with Rs 2,000 fine. "The sentences shall run concurrently. The undergone period shall be considered in the sentence," the court said.
According to defence lawyers Niranjan Mundargi and Mahesh Vaswani, the lower court's order was perverse, bad in law and without application of mind. "There are errors apparent on the face of the said order and the same has caused grave miscarriage of justice to the appellant and deserves to be quashed and set aside," the appeal had said.
It further claimed that the lower court placed heavy reliance on the testimony of the complainant in the case which was not corroborated with any other evidence by the prosecution. The lower court, while awarding the maximum punishment of death to Ramchandra, had observed that he was a menace to the society and life imprisonment would be highly inadequate.
The prosecution's case was that 19 girls were allegedly gangraped by three of the accused. The statements of the 19 victims were recorded by a magistrate and of them, three had come before the court to testify against the accused.
The charge of murder was invoked against Karanjule after it came to light that one of the victims was suffering from jaundice and penumonia when she was gangraped. The victim subsequently died.