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Death for three in Kopardi minor rape-murder case

Police escorting the three men, convicted for raping and killing a minor girl in Kopardi last year, to the district and sessions court in Ahmednagar on Wednesday. (Right) Villagers from Kopardi gathered outside the court. Deepak Salvi Deepak Salvi  

More than 16 months after the rape-murder of a minor in the remote village of Kopardi in Ahmednagar sent shockwaves across Maharashtra, a special court on Wednesday pronounced the death sentence for the three accused.

The tension was palpable in the courtroom as Jitendra Shinde (25), Santosh Bhaval (36) and Nitin Bhailume (26) were produced. All the three stood with impassive faces as Additional Special Judge Suvarna Kevale awarded the death sentence to each of them.

The proceedings began at 11:25 a.m. as a massive crowd gathered outside the court amid heavy security.

A roar was heard outside the courtroom after the sentencing was announced.

"I had full confidence in the court and knew that justice would be served...we have waited every single day for nearly one-and-a-half years for this judgement," said the victim's father.

 

All the three convicts can appeal against the judgement in the Bombay High Court.

Earlier, high security was put in place by the district administration before the commencement of the proceedings. Flying squads of police personnel were stationed in Kopardi as well as in various parts of Ahmednagar district. Nearly 1,000 policemen were deployed, with entry restricted to the courtroom.

While concluding the arguments on the verdict on November 23 last, Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam urged the special court to award maximum punishment to the three offenders, given the particularly gory and brutal nature of the crime that occurred on July 13 last year.

“Extremely cold-blooded murder”

Mr. Nikam had dubbed the murder as “extremely cold-blooded” and touched upon 13 points in the crime to argue that the accused deserved capital punishment. The convicted trio “remained unrepentant of their crime” before and after the tragedy, showing no contrition. A criminal conspiracy was hatched by the trio to rape and murder the victim between July 11 and 13, he had said, adding that “society would get a wrong message if the death sentence was not awarded in so gory a case”.

Counsels for the accused, while pleading for mitigation of their sentences, had said that a death sentence judgement could intensify social tensions between communities.

The victim as well as the accused hail from the same area.

The case, which has been closely tracked by political parties and social outfits, acquired a peculiar urgency owing to the potentially explosive nature of the crime in creating acute social divisions.

The incident has been likened to the 2012 Nirbhaya rape case in the extent of its brutality, with medical reports suggesting that violence of a particularly feral nature was inflicted on the victim.

Here is a timeline of the case:

July 13, 2016: The 14-year-old girl, belonging to the Maratha community, is found raped and murdered on a field.

July 15, 2016: The Ahmednagar police arrest accused number 1, Jitendra Shinde from the Shrigonda Taluk.

July 16, 2016: Santosh Bhaval (accused no. 2) is nabbed from the Karjat Taluk.

July 17, 2016: Nitin Bhailume (accused no. 3) is arrested in Pune.

All three are believed to have worked as contractual workers in private companies or at construction sites.

July 24, 2016: Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis visits the kin of the victim amid intense clamour for speedy justice on the part of Maratha outfits and various social organisations and political parties across the State.

October 7, 2016: Nearly three months after the crime, a 350-page charge sheet is filed by the prosecution in the Ahmednagar district and sessions court under sections 302 and 376 (a) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

October 17: Prosecution frames charges against the three accused.

May 24, 2017: Prosecution closes its evidence after examining a total 31 witnesses.

November 18, 2017: A special court holds the accused guilty of raping and murdering the minor.

November 21, 2017: Counsels for Shinde and Nitin Bhailume begin arguments on the verdict, urge for mitigation of sentence.

November 22: Counsel for Bhaval finishes arguments on the verdict; Mr. Nikam pushes for the death sentence in his arguments.

November 29: Ahmednagar Sessions court awards the death sentence to the accused.


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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 4:13:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/death-sentence-to-three-accused-in-kopardi-rape-murder-case/article21057919.ece

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