Mumbai: Upholding the life imprisonment of three persons – Ranjeet Gade, Ganesh Kamble and Subhash Bhosale – in the Pune gangrape case of 2010, the Bombay High Court has observed that with the increase in violent crimes against women, the sentence has to be ‘proportionate to the gravity and magnitude of the offence’ in order to act as a deterrent. Besides, the HC has said that the courts should ‘protect the dignity of the victim’ during the trial while expressing dissatisfaction over sessions court permitting the defence advocate seeking graphic details while cross-examining the survivor.
A division bench of Justices Sadhana Jadhav and Sarang Kotwal observed on September 28, “The sentencing policy adopted by the Courts, in such cases, ought to have a stricter yardstick so as to act as a deterrent… The object of sentencing policy should be to see that the crime does not go unpunished and the victim of crime as also the society has the satisfaction that justice has been done to it.”
Stating that rising violent crime against women was an issue of concern, the judges observed, “It was observed that in recent years, the rising crime rate, particularly violent crimes against women had made criminal sentencing by the Courts a subject of concern.”
The HC expressed dissatisfaction at the sessions judge observing that the “sessions judge failed in his duty” to protect the dignity of the victim. The high court even made some strong remarks on the conduct of the defence lawyers in the case, particularly, during the cross-examination of the victim.
From 4.30pm on April 1, 2010 till 12.45am on April 2, 2010, the woman was taken to various places in the car from Mankar Square to Karat Pate Vasti, Wakad, Tech Mahindra Company, Hinjewadi and finally to a secluded place, where all the three accused raped her one after the other. After that she was dropped near her residence.
The trio was convicted by the sessions judge in Pune in October 2011. They filed an appeal in the HC.
During the trial, the HC noted that the defence lawyers had tried to suggest, among other things that the victim had consumed alcohol and that she had had consensual sexual intercourse with the accused.
The HC questioned the silence of the prosecution during such cross-examination.
It further remarked that the sessions judge who had heard the case should not have remained passive and should have intervened when the lawyers subjected the survivor, the primary witness in the case, to improper cross-examination.
The HC has said that during the trial, Bhosale’s advocate tried to develop the theory of consensual sex.
“Once she (victim) had denied suggestion of consensual sex, further suggestions were put to her regarding graphic details of the act. These further suggestions were wholly unnecessary,” noted the HC adding that such line of questioning could not be considered a “proper cross-examination”.
In their 54-page judgment, the judges observed, “We strongly disapprove all these suggestions put to the witness. We are more pained because of the passive approach adopted by the learned Judge in allowing these questions.”
Questioning the sessions judge’s approach of allowing the defence advocate to proceed with such cross-examination, the HC observed, “These suggestions crossed all lines of basic dignity. Under the garb of giving suggestions, graphic details of the act were put to the witness. This was wholly unwarranted. The learned Judge has recorded that at that stage the witness was sobbing. The learned Judge should have intervened and stopped this line of cross-examination.”
Stressing on the fact that all courts were duty-bound to forbid any questions that might be offensive or meant to insult someone, the HC has said that in the present case, the sessions judge “failed to inform the woman that she must not feel compelled to answer the unwarranted questions”.
However, the HC has observed that though the cross-examination was questionable, there was no infirmity in the session court’s order convicting and sentencing the three accused persons to life imprisonment.