The victim's mother welcomed the verdict and said that justice has been delivered, while demanding capital punishment for the culprits. Social activist Anna Hazare had also last year sought death penalty for the three convicts.
Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam was appointed by the government to handle the case as it was sent to a fast-track court. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had assured the state the guilty would not be spared.
Jitendra Babulal Shinde, Santosh Gorakh Bhawal and Nitin Gopinath Bhailume were charged with gang-rape, criminal conspiracy and murder under the stringent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
The crime proved the trigger for the silent marches taken out by Maratha community across the state. Though their campaign also raised long-pending demands like reservation in education and jobs, the Kopardi case was highlighted in the marches, which had evoked overwhelming response, compelling all political parties to take the movement seriously.
Congress leader and former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan told NDTV, "It was a heinous crime and I am glad the culprits have been held guilty. The case took on caste connotations but it was heinous a crime and Mr Nikam handled the case well."
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