Shakti Mills rape case: Bombay High Court pulls up Maharashtra govt over delay in death penalty confirmation

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Friday pulled up the Maharashtra government for its "insensitivity" in failing to secure an expedited hearing on the confirmation of death sentence awarded to the convicts in the Shakti Mills gangrape case in April 2014.

A bench of justices AS Oka and AS Gadkari noted that the conviction was secured through a fast-track hearing before the trial court. But after the state government filed a plea in June 2014 seeking that the high court ratify the death sentence awarded to the convicts, the matter had come up for hearing once in December 2014 and thereafter only in January this year after a delay of over four years, it said.

"These are important matters and we don't know what to say if the state shows such insensitivity in such crucial matters. Isn't it your duty to seek early and timely hearings in matters like these?" the bench said.

Shakti Mills rape case: Bombay High Court pulls up Maharashtra govt over delay in death penalty confirmation

File photo of the Mumbai police inspecting the Shakti Mills compound. AFP

The hearing on the confirmation was initially listed for 3 January this year, but got delayed on account of three writ petitions filed by the convicts challenging the constitutional validity of the provision under which death sentence awarded to them.

On 3 January, the bench led by Justice Oka directed the state to clarify with the chief justice if the writ petitions and the confirmation pleas should be heard together.

Chief Justice Naresh Patil ruled that the writ petitions should be heard and decided upon first, thus, further delaying the hearing on the confirmation plea.

However, the bench led by Justice Oka said Friday that it was the state's duty to point out before the Chief Justice that such order would delay the confirmation hearing which needed to be expedited.

"This confirmation case has remained pending for a long time of more than four years. In fact, after 5 December, 2014, it was listed for the first time on 3 January, 2019 and that also in view of the direction issued by this bench. The state did not do anything in this period to secure an expedited hearing," the bench said.

It has now directed the state to go back to the Chief Justice's court and seek that the writ petitions and the confirmation pleas be placed together to be heard by a common bench to prevent any further delay.

A sessions court had in April 2014 convicted Vijay Jadhav (19), Mohammad Kasim Bengali (21), Mohammad Salim Ansari (28)and Siraj Khan for raping a photojournalist in Shakti Mills on August 22, 2013.

Jadhav, Bengali and Ansari were sentenced to death as they were earlier also convicted for the gang rape of another girl in July 2013. Siraj was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Under the newly enacted section 376 (e) of the Indian Penal Code, a repeat offence of rape is punishable with death.
The death sentence of the three is yet to be ratified by HC.

Vijay Jadhav, Kasim Bengali and Salim Ansari, however, moved the High Court soon after their conviction, challenging the constitutional validity of the provision under which they were sentenced to death for a repeat offence.

The petitioners challenged the sessions court order allowing the prosecution to invoke section 376 (e) of the IPC when the trial was already underway.

They also challenged the constitutional validity of this section, brought in by the Union government after the 2012 Delhi gang-rape case.

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Updated Date: Jan 25, 2019 17:26:14 IST

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