Describing the gangrape of a 24-year-old here as "barbaric", the Gujarat High Court today upheld the life term awarded to five accused in the 2003 case where the girl was sexually assaulted on the New Year night after her boyfriend Sajal Jain lured her to a city hotel.
A division bench of Justices Jayant Patel and Mohinder Pal rejected the appeals of all the five accused who had sought quashment and set aside the sessions court order of June 2008.
The victim, hailing from a middle class family, committed suicide by hanging herself in her room on January 7, 2004, a week after the crime on December 31, 2003. She was also branded with cigarettes and was beaten up.
According to her complaint, she was gangraped by six people, all of whom were either relatives or friends of her boyfriend Sajal and present in the hotel room.
Upholding the verdict of the trial court, the HC in its 121-page judgment said "if the facts of the present case are examined, we find that the offence is not only very serious in nature but it has practically destroyed the human dignity of a victim who is now deceased with a vigorous sexual assault."
"The sessions judge has not made any error in imposing sentence of life...more particularly when we have found that each of the convicts has committed sexual intercourse upon the victim by force, that too in a barbaric and henious manner."
"Hence the court declines to interfere with the decision of the sessions court," it said.
Sajal Jain and the hotel owner's two sons-- Chandan and Ashok Jaiswal-- were among the five convicted by Sessions Judge Jyostna Yagnik.
Two others--Sugam Jaiswal and Dharmendra Jain-- were also awarded life imprisonment. One accused Manish Jain has been absconding in the case since 2003.
The sessions court had also acquitted seven others giving them benefit of doubt.
All the convicts, who are out on bail, requested the court to give time of 4-6 weeks to surrender.
However, refusing this prayer the court held that "considering the facts and circumstances, we find that the appeals are decided and, therefore, all the accused shall surrender themselves with the jail authority concerned within a period of two weeks from today."
"Failing which, their bail bond shall stand cancelled and they shall be taken into custody by the concerned police officer forthwith to undergo remaining sentence," the High Court added.
The case had shocked the nation and several protests were held across Gujarat against the incident.
The HC has also dismissed the appeals from the state challenging the acquittal of seven other accused in the case.
"Upon re-appreciation of evidences, we find that the learned Sessions Judge on account of the evidence available has taken a view for grant of benefit of doubt, which cannot be said as an impossible view," held the court while dismissing the appeals from the state seeking conviction of those who were acquitted by the sessions court.
The division bench has also said Rs 15,000 fine imposed by the trial court on the each convict was 'insufficient'.
"In our prima facie view, the amount of fine imposed, keeping in view the gravity of the offence and the social circumstances showing the capacity of the accused to pay, could be said to be on lower side," it said.
However, the state has not pleaded for the enhancement of the fine imposed on the convicts. Also, relatives of the victim have too not prayed for compensation from the convicts, following which the High Court has refrained from passing any order on the issue.