Principal sessions judge Shalini Phansalkar Joshi sentenced to death Vijay Jadhav, Qasim Sheikh alias Bengali and Salim Ansari.

A sessions court here awarded the death penalty, under a new IPC section, to three repeat offenders — Vijay Jadhav, Qasim Sheikh, alias Bengali, and Salim Ansari — who gang-raped a photojournalist on the Shakti Mills compound in 2013.

They were earlier convicted of the gang rape of a telephone operator on the same premises.

Siraj Sheikh, convicted only in the photojournalist case, was sentenced to prison for the rest of his natural life.

Section 376 E of the Indian Penal Code, providing for the death penalty for repeat offenders, was introduced under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act following the December 2012 Delhi gang rape. “No one will dare commit such a crime after this verdict. The death penalty is necessary to deter such criminal acts,” said Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil.

Delivering the judgment, Principal Sessions Judge Shalini Phansalkar Joshi termed it the “rarest of the rare” cases. “If not in this case, then in which case can death be awarded? The accused showed no mercy towards the victim [photojournalist]. They were cruel in their conduct and had no remorse for the crime they committed,” she said.

“This is a crime not only against the girl but also a crime against society. The common man will lose faith in the system if leniency is shown. There should be zero tolerance of such crimes.”

Referring to the plea by the convicts, who appeared in court and pleaded for mercy, claiming they were the breadwinners of their families, the judge said, “Their economic status is irrelevant. This was a diabolical act.”

The court lauded the courage of the photojournalist in lodging the complaint. “The court has witnessed her trauma and pain. She had fainted during her deposition. This shows the extent of her suffering.”

Earlier, Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, seeking the death penalty for the convicts, said: “Rape leaves a deep and permanent scar on the victim. The accused committed multiple rapes on defenceless women. They did not repent their earlier crime. They deserve no mercy.”

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