Death penalty to All 3 in Kopardi rape-murder case

Ahmednagar, 29th December: The Ahmednagar district and sessions court Wednesday handed out death sentence to all three accused convicted of the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl at Kopardi village in Karjat taluka of Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra last year. The family of the girl, special public prosecutor (SPP) Ujjwal Nikam, some key witnesses in this case and all three convicts were present in the packed courtroom when judge Suvarna Kevale pronounced the verdict. The defence lawyers remained absent.

The court awarded death penalty to prime accused Jitendra Babulal Shinde alias Pappu (21) under Section 302 (murder), read with Section 120 (b) (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). He was also awarded imprisonment for life and a fine of Rs 20,000 under Section 376 (2) (i)(m) (rape), read with Section 120 (b) of the IPC, and three years’ rigorous imprisonment (RI) under IPC Section 354 A (1).

Co-accused Santosh Gorakh Bhaval (29) and Nitin Gopinath Bhailume (28) were awarded death penalty under Section 120 (b) read with 302 and 109 (abetment) of the IPC. The duo was also handed out life imprisonment and a fine of Rs 20,000 each, under Section 120, read with sections 376 (2)(i)(m) and 109 of the IPC and three years’ RI under sections 109 and 354 A (1) of the IPC.

The three men showed no remorse, nor did they beg for pardon when the judge was reading out the sentence, Nikam said while speaking to The Indian Express after the verdict.

In fact, Nikam said, ‘accused no. 1’ (Shinde) was very brazen after the conviction. “After the judgment, he said (in Marathi) ‘ek divas jail kivha hazaar divas jail…kay farak padto…(One day jail or thousand day jail, what difference does it make..)’,” Nikam said, adding it reflected their “depraved mindset”.

“They did not appear to have been stunned by the death sentence. There was no shocked expression on their faces. They neither sought pardon, nor made any attempt to seek pardon for their heinous act,” he added.

Around 6.45 pm on July 13, 2016, when the victim girl was returning home on a bicycle from her grandfather’s house, according to the police, the trio stopped her, sexually assaulted her and then murdered her. A case was registered at the Karjat police station following a complaint filed by the girl’s cousin.

The police had first arrested Shinde from Shrigonda in Ahmednagar on July 14. Bhaval was arrested from Karjat and Bhailume from Pune on July 16. The three were was booked under sections of the IPC and the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

The police had filed a charge-sheet running into around 350 pages against the accused. During the trial, the prosecution examined 31 witnesses and argued there were 24 different types of evidence against the three.

 

During arguments over the quantum of punishment, defence lawyer Yohan Makasare had sought life imprisonment for Shinde instead of death penalty claiming it was not a rarest of the rare case. Advocate Prakash Aher had sought leniency for Bhailume on the ground that he was a student, educated, poor, Dalit, and a support for his parents.

Accused Bhaval’s lawyer Balasaheb Khopde and Vijayalakshmi Khopde had argued that evidence against him was weak and not enough to call the incident a “rarest of the rare case”.

On November 22, SPP Nikam sought the death penalty for all three, calling the rape-murder a crime committed with extreme brutality and proper planning. Nikam had cited the cases of Dhananjoy Chatterjee vs State of West Bengal and Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab, in which the accused were granted death punishment for rape and murder.

Seeking death for Bhaval and Bhailume, Nikam cited the Indira Gandhi murder case in which an accused Kehar Singh was granted death penalty even though he was not present on the crime scene but because he was a part of the conspiracy. Nikam also cited the death penalty given to Afzal Guru in the Parliament attack case. He said Afzal Guru was also given capital punishment because evidence of his involvement in conspiracy.

Nikam said this was one of the first cases in Maharashtra where the conspirators too got the death sentence. “It was accused no. 1 (Jitendra Babulal Shinde) who had given a missed call to the accused no. 3 (Nitin Gopinath Bhailume) who was carrying a cellphone. Accused no. 2 (Santosh Gorakh Bhaval) did not carry a cellphone. It can be deduced that the accused no. 1, through his missed call, conveyed something which he wanted to do…Thus all the three were involved in the crime,” he said, adding that though accused no. 1 was convicted for rape and murder, the two others were convicted for being part of the conspiracy.

 

According to the police, accused Jitendra Shinde, who worked at a brick kiln, had got married five years ago but the couple had separated. He married another woman two years ago. According to locals, he was an alcoholic. Nitin Bhailume, Shinde’s cousin, had shifted to Kopardi from Karjat three years ago and stayed with his parents. Bhaval is a native of Khandvi village in Karjat taluka. He shifted to Kopardi six months before the incident for work. His wife and children are now living in Pimpalwadi village.

-Agency