Mumbai: Special public prosecutor Ujwal Nikam, who is representing the victim’s family in the Kopardi rape and murder case, on Wednesday demanded the death penalty for all three convicts.
A strong message needs to go out to men who think of committing sexual crimes against women, Nikam said in the district and sessions court in Ahmednagar that’s hearing the case of rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl.
The victim was assaulted and killed in Kopardi village of Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra in July 2016.
On 28 November 2016, the court convicted Jitendra Shinde, who is the main accused, of conspiracy, sexual assault on a minor, and murder, and accomplices Nitin Bhailume and Santosh Bhaval for taking part in the conspiracy.
The court will announce the sentence on 29 November.
Nikam, whose appointment was demanded by the victim’s family, argued that a lesser punishment like life imprisonment would not serve as a deterrent. Conceding that no direct evidence had been found to prove that Shinde’s accomplices, Bhailume and Bhaval, had carried out the sexual assault and murder, Nikam, however, argued that circumstantial evidence and their participation in the conspiracy amounted to their involvement and that thus they also deserved the death penalty.
Balasaheb Khopde, who represented Bhaval, argued that no direct evidence of sexual assault and murder had been found against his client. In addition, this was not the rarest of the rare cases in which death penalty is awarded, he added.
But Nikam said the main conspirator and convict, Shinde, had shown no signs of remorse and deserved the death penalty; so did the other two convicts, he added.
The crime triggered massive Maratha mobilization across the state as the victim belonged to the Maratha community. All three convicts are Dalits.
Between 9 August 2016 and 9 August 2017, Maratha organizations, supported by all political parties, held as many as 51 silent marches in major cities and towns of Maharashtra. The last such march in Mumbai on 9 August saw a massive turnout. The Maratha campaign widened to include other demands including reservation for the community, which account for 32-35% of Maharashtra’s population, in government-run and aided educational institutions and government jobs, and a blanket farm loan waiver.
In June, the Maharashtra government declared a Rs34,022 crore farm loan waiver. In addition, the government has offered educational and social sops for Maratha students on par with the benefits available to students from scheduled castes and tribes and other backward classed.