The Bombay High Court on Monday upheld the constitutional validity of a section of the Indian Penal Code, which states that a repeat rape offender can be imprisoned for the rest of his life or sentenced to death.
A division bench of Justice BP Dharmadhikari and Justice Revati Mohite Dere upheld the constitutional validity of section 376E of the Indian Penal Code in its order as the court dismissed the petition by three men sentenced to death in 2014 in the Shakti Mills gang rape case.
The accused, however, can still challenge the high court order in the Supreme Court.
The new law after the amendments was enforced for the first time in this case.
The gang rape of a 22-year-old photojournalist by seven men, including two juveniles, at Mumbai's Shakti Mills had sparked widespread outrage.
Three of the seven accused in the case were also named in the rape of a 19-year-old telephone operator at the Shakti Mills compound.
After their conviction, the prosecution in the case moved to add Section 376E to the three repeat offenders - Vijay Jadhav, Mohammad Qasim Shaikh and Mohammad Salim Ansari.
The court accepted the prosecution's argument and awarded the death penalty to the three convicts.
Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nigam, who the led the prosecution, in the Shakti Mills case told NDTV, "This exceptional provision was inserted in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) by introducing section 376E after the Nirbhaya incident."
"The intention of the legislature for enacting such a stringent provision was to ensure a strong deterrent to criminally minded people, who even after conviction in rape cases again repeat such offences. If this happens, then they are to be dealt with an iron hand."
The law was amended after the massive outrage over the December 16 Delhi gang in 2012. The changes were made on the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee to make trials quicker and ensure harsher punishment for those who are repeat offenders in cases of sexual assault.
Justice JS Verma along with Justice Leila Seth, former judge of the High Court and Gopal Subramanium, former Solicitor General of India recommended amendments to the Criminal Law to provide for quicker trial and enhanced punishment for criminals accused of committing sexual assault against women.
The committee submitted its report on January 23, 2013.