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The Bombay High Court on Monday upheld the constitutional validity of the amended section of the Indian Penal Code that said that repeat offenders in rape cases can be awarded life imprisonment or the death penalty.

A division bench comprising Justices B P  Dharmadhikari and Revati Mohite Dere dismissed petitions filed by three convicts in the infamous Shakti Mills Gangrape case  that challenged the constitutional validity of the legal provisions under which they were sentenced to death in 2014. Under an amendment to Section 376 (e) of the IPC, repeat offenders in rape cases faced life imprisonment or a death penalty.

The amendment was made in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya case that shocked the country in 2012. The court said that the amended section was not ultra vires of the Constitution and hence need not be quashed.

The three accused — Vijay Jadhav, Mohammed Kasim Shaikh, Mohammed Salim Ansari — had gang raped a 23-year-old photojournalist on August 22, 2013 in the defunct Shakti Mills compound at Lower Parel. On March 20, 2014, a trial court convicted all three accused and they were later sentenced to death under the newly-introduced Section 376E of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The trio had challenged the constitutional validity of Section 376E that prescribes life imprisonment — imprisonment till death of the convict — or death sentence for repeat rape offenders. It was the government’s contention that in view of the increasing number of crimes against women, punishment for gang rape and repeat rape offenders must be enhanced to act as a deterrent. Police investigations in the Shakti Mills case had revealed that the trio had earlier also gang raped an 18-year-old call centre employee on July 31, 2013, at the same place.

—India Legal Bureau

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