This Article is From Aug 26, 2014

Blog: Covering the Shakti Mills Gang-Rape Case

Mumbai: As we walked into court this morning, we were all keeping our news flashes ready. There were two options for Vijay Jadhav, Qasim Bengali and Salim Ansari: Life or Death. Whatever it was, it would be a landmark case, one that would set the precedent for the future.

From day one, I have followed the Shakti Mills photojournalist gang-rape case trial.

From the day the survivor almost fainted in court till the sentencing on Friday, this trial has been unique. And yesterday, Maharashtra became the first state to hand out the death penalty to three repeat offenders under Section 376(E) of the Indian Penal Code. This section was added after the Nirbhaya case following the Justice Verma Committee report. (Shakti Mills gang-rapes: 3 convicts sentenced to death for repeat offence)

As the day's proceedings started, the focus soon shifted to the sentence. The Defence tried to obtain an adjournment and refused to make submissions. When their request was denied, it was clear that the court was not going to delay the case any further. The court later said the attitude of the Defence was unfortunate and they were putting their clients' lives in jeopardy.

As the proceedings went on, the accused sat in court smiling. They smiled as the judge read out her order. And that is when I agreed with the judge as she said, "The accused had not made any good of opportunity that was given to them when they were juveniles."

As the day's proceedings went on, the packed court waited with baited breath. Reporters, law interns, everyone had a takeaway from the case. It has been a demonstration of how a court gives meaning to a law. And how a law takes shape in practicality.

I know that this trial has opened up the debate on two very important aspects. One is should the survivor have to depose in court at all and relive her trauma? And who exactly is a repeat offender?

As the case moves to an appeal court, these questions will be further discussed. And maybe, we will see more clarity on these issues. May be, this case will set the precedent for future trials. That a court can actively take steps to see that the legal system is not misused to cause unnecessary delays.

As a reporter on one of the most-watched trials in the country, my takeaway from this case is immense. I have seen how much the legal system needs to improve when it comes to recording of evidence of the survivor. I have also learnt that being sensitive is perhaps the most important aspect of any reportage, especially when it comes to rape cases.

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