Kopardi convicts get death sentence

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The court upholds death for the three men who were convicted of raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl in Kopardi village in 2016, sparking a huge outcry across the state, especially from the Maratha community.

Additional Special Judge Suvarna Kevale awarded the death sentence to Jitendra Babulal Shinde, Santosh Gorakh Bhawal and Nitin Gopinath Bhailume.

Special Judge Keole slapped Shinde with three years jail for outraging the modesty of the victim, a life sentence for conspiracy and rape, and death for the murder.

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"We shall challenge not only the verdict but the entire proceedings before the High Court, the lapses and other issues on which we have already given our written submission to the Sessions Court", the lawyers for Bhawal, Balasaheb Khopade and Vijayalaxmi Khopade, said. The brutal rape and murder of a 15-year-old in Kopardi, about 150 km from Pune, on July 13 last year had led to tension between the Maratha and dalit communities.

The accused also inflicted injuries all over her body and broke her limbs before throttling her. It also spurred the Maratha community to launch "mook morchas" (silent marches) demanding stringent action against the accused besides seeking an amendment to the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to curb its misuse. Breaking down after hearing the sentence, she said, "I am satisfied with the verdict". "Two days before the incident, the victim was molested by the accused". Nikam added that the case was very challenging for the prosecution as there was no eye-witness.

The prosecutor said that the three convicts were also given life imprisonment for charges pertaining to rape and criminal conspiracy and they were also fined Rs 20,000 each. All three were charged under Section 302 of IPC and 376 of the IPC and related sections of the Poxo law. The three convicts showed no reaction and stood motionless with their heads down. They can appeal the sentence in the high court. However, special public prosecutor, Ujjwal Nikam had argued that this was a "rarest of the rare case" and hence, the tree convicts should be awarded death sentence. All these sentences will run concurrently, said Nikam.

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