The Punjab and Haryana High Court today upheld the death penalty for seven people convicted in the rape and murder of a 27-year-old mentally challenged woman in Haryana's Rohtak over four years ago.
Terming the murder-rape as a "Nirbhaya-like incident", the special division bench comprising Justices AB Chaudhari and Surinder Gupta not only dismissed the petitions filed by the convicts but also increased the fine imposed on them from Rs 1.75 lakh to Rs 50 lakh. The money can be recovered by attaching or selling immovable properties such as their houses and agricultural land, it ruled.
After raping and murdering the woman on February 1, 2015, the gang had dumped her body in a deserted part of Akbarpur village along the Rohtak-Hisar road. Doctors recovered stones and razor blades from her stomach during the post-mortem examination.
On December 21, 2015, Additional District and Sessions Judge Seema Singhal sentenced the seven people arrested in the case to death. She also imposed a fine of Rs 1.75 lakh on each on them. While a minor arrested in the case is being tried in a juvenile court, a ninth suspect has committed suicide.
In the verdict passed today, Justice AB Chaudhari expressed the hope that imposition of the enhanced fine will prove to be an additional deterrent for potential criminals. Of the proceeds gained from the sale of their properties, half would go to the state while the remaining would be handed over to the victim's sister.
The bench also praised the investigation officer, Sub-Inspector Mohammad Ilias, for the professionalism he showed in probing the case. "It is up to the government to award him now," it said.
By the Nirbhaya case, the judges were referring to the gangrape and fatal assault of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student by six people on a bus in Delhi on December 16, 2012. She died in a Singapore hospital 13 days later.
The incident led to massive protests against the government for its alleged failure to provide adequate security to women in the national capital. All the accused in the case were arrested and charged. While four of them were sentenced to death, a fifth died in prison. The sixth convict, a minor, was sent to a juvenile remand home and released after his sentence was completed three years later.