The police are likely to invoke the stringent Section 120 (B) — criminal conspiracy — of the IPC in the case of gang rape at Shakti Mills here. If convicted under the section, the accused could face life imprisonment. The charge sheet is expected to be filed on September 19.

“The accused are habitual offenders and have committed similar offences in the past. By invoking the section of criminal conspiracy, we to want ensure that this case is not seen as a ‘spur- of-the-moment’ crime but a very planned offence. The fact that the accused used code words during the crime, asked the victim to clean up the spot and clicked her photographs is enough to prove conspiracy,” an officer of the Mumbai Crime Branch told The Hindu.

On September 22, when the victim, a photojournalist, and her male friend entered the mill compound, only Salim Ansari and Vijay Jadhav were present, the police said. Salim then called up Qasim Sheikh alias Bengali and told him to come to the spot. An eyewitness heard Bengali telling the other two, “Shikaar aagaya hain, aajao [the bait’s here, let’s go],” the police said. Two of them left for the mills immediately and a third initially refused, but later joined them. “The eyewitness statement will support our claims that the five conspired to commit the crime,” said the officer.

The police say they have a water-tight case. Besides the victim and her male companion’s statements, they have collected forensic and technical evidence. This include mobile phones used by the accused on the day of the crime that was tracked to the mill compound.

“We have recovered DNA of all the accused from the victim’s clothes and a dupatta found at the scene of the crime. Shards of a broken beer bottle used to threaten the victim with fingerprints of one of the accused were also recovered. The soiled clothes recovered from the scene of the crime match those found in the house of the accused, he said.

The police have recorded the victim’s statement under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code to ensure that there are no legal hurdles during the trial.

“We also have the FSL report stating that the male companion and the girl were out on an assignment and that had clicked 240 pictures in a span of 40 minutes before the sexual assault. This will prevent the defence from raising questions why the victim went to the location,” the officer said.

The police will rely on several witnesses, including the victim’s male companion, her mother and the two sketch artistes who drew pictures of the accused.

The police say they will seek the maximum punishment of life imprisonment in the case.

“After the recommendations made by the Justice Verma Commission to award stricter punishment in sexual assault cases, we are going to seek life sentence in the case so that it serves as a deterrent,” the officer said.