Courts should adopt policy of deterrent punishment for rapists, says high court

The Bombay High Court, while refusing to reduce the life sentence of three men from Pune convicted in the Hinjewadi rape case, on Tuesday observed that violent crimes against women are rising and courts should adopt the policy for providing deterrent punishment proportionate to the gravity and magnitude of the offence.

The HC said that such an approach taken by trial courts to ensure that the crime does not go unpunished will help the victims and the public at large to have the satisfaction that justice has been served. A division bench of Justice Sadhana S Jadhav and Justice Sarang V Kotwal on September 28 passed a judgment on an appeal filed by Subhash Hiralal Bhosale, Ganesh Uttam Kamble and Ranjeet Shahaji Gade, convicted of raping a 25-year-old married woman in April, 2010 at Hinjewadi IT Park in Pune.

As per prosecution, on April 1, the victim had boarded a car with the three convicts, presuming that it was a shared taxi. She was driven around the city and gangraped at knife-point early April 2.

The three were sentenced to life by the Pune sessions court on October 21, 2011. The trio had then filed an appeal in 2012, later argued by advocates Anjali Patil and P G Sarda.

While the HC appreciated efforts of the trial judge, it “strongly disapproved” of the suggestions made to the witness by the accused and pulled up the Pune sessions judge for adopting a “passive approach” while allowing questions that involved graphic details of the act, which made the victim uncomfortable.

“These suggestions crossed all lines of basic dignity… These questions were not necessary for establishing or destroying the facts in issue,” the bench noted.

The court also expressed dissatisfaction on the “silence” of then special public prosecutor, appearing for the police, for not objecting to such suggestions. The prosecutors are required to perform their duties responsibly to assist the courts, the HC said.

Referring to a past Supreme Court ruling in another case of a woman in Pune being raped and murdered, the HC observed that rising rate of crimes against women had made sentencing by courts a subject of concern.

The HC said, “The sentencing policy adopted by courts, in such cases, ought to have a stricter yardstick so as to act as a deterrent. There are shockingly large number of cases where the punishment awarded to the accused is not in proportion to the gravity and magnitude of the offence, thereby encouraging the criminal and ultimately, making justice suffer by weakening credibility.”

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