Almost three years after the brutal gangrape and murder of a 21-year-old college girl in West Bengal's Kamduni, a Kolkata court on Thursday convicted six people in the case. Arguments and counter-arguments on the quantum of punishment will be heard by the court on Friday.
Additional City and Sessions Judge Sanchita Sarkar pronounced the order in a packed court room.
The ruling Trinamool Congress hailed the verdict and said it showed that the police administration had worked impartially to get the culprits of the gangrape and murder case booked. The Opposition, however, questioned why it took so long for the police to place the chargesheet and why it failed to get evidence against the two who were acquitted by the court.
Here's all you need to know about the case:
— The gangrape and brutal murder of the girl occurred when she was returning home at Kamduni, about 50 km from Kolkata, in North 24-Parganas district after appearing for an examination at her college on 7 June, 2013.
— The second year BA student was pulled into a farm when she was walking back home along a deserted road after alighting from a bus.
— One of the accused had waylaid the girl on a deserted road and took her forcibly inside the factory. He was pronounced guilty of abetting the offence and wrongful confinement.
— Her disfigured body, with injury marks all over, was discovered the next morning in a field behind the factory.
— The incident had raised a storm in the state, with the villagers, many of them friends and relatives of the victim, floating a platform Kamduni Pratibadi Mancha and seeking speedy justice and capital punishment to the guilty.
— They knocked on the doors of top political and constitutional authorities including the president, demanding that the trial be expedited. Sensing the sensitivity of the case, the Mamata Banerjee government handed it over to the state police's Criminal Investigation Department (CID), which named nine people in its charge sheet.
— However, controversies erupted one after another. There was much hue and cry when two village girls — Tumpa Koyal and Moushumi Koyal, the face of the Kamduni protests — were angrily labelled "CPI-M people" by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had to face a demonstration despite an unannounced visit to the victim's ramshackle home days after the incident.
— Street protests synged Kolkata and other parts of the state in the days and months after the Kamduni incident. Women, youths, rights activists and college and school students, as well as leading lights of the civil society took out marches and rallies, and addressed meetings demanding justice and railing against what they called the "deteriorating law and order".
— Police also drew flak after the victim's uncle, a key witness in the case, succumbed to his injuries following a scuffle with security personnel during one of the protests in September 2013.
— Saiful Ali, Ansar Ali and Amin Ali were declared guilty of gang rape and murder by the judge, over two years and seven months after the gruesome incident near Barasat, 20 km from Kolkata, in North 24 Parganas district. The maximum punishment for these charges is death.
— Three other accused — Sheikh Emanul Islam, Aminur Islam and Bhola Naskar — were pronounced guilty of gang rape, criminal conspiracy and causing disappearance of evidence, under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code. They could face the maximum punishment of life sentence.
— Rafiqul Islam and Nur Ali were acquitted, while the ninth accused Gopal Naskar died while the trial was on.
— "Whatever we have to say, we will say tomorrow (Friday). Let the verdict come," said the victim's brother outside the court premises.
— Mousumi Koyal, also victim's friend, regretted that the probe was not done properly. "I don't know how two of the accused were unconditionally released. It will be great if the government appeals against their acquittal," she said.
— Pradip Mukherjee, former headmaster of Kamduni Primary School who was also in the forefront of the protest against the gang rape, also expressed surprised at the two accused being pronounced not guilty."As per the stringent provisions for rape now, anybody present at the scene of the crime will be punished. How come two of them went scot free? But I hear the highest quarters of the administration have sensed there is something wrong and they are thinking of making an appeal. That's good. Let us hope for the best," he said.
— State Education Minister and ruling Trinamool Congress secretary general Partha Chatterjee said one has to abide by the court judgment. "Whatever the court decides, that's the best. We can't go beyond that."
— State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury said, "A judge gives the verdict based on the probe findings. If the investigators fail to present adequate evidence, the judge cannot do anything. In this case, the administration has not acted properly. That's the reason two of the accused have escaped punishment."
With inputs from agencies