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Rape more serious offence than murder: Maha govt tells HC

Rape is a more serious offence than murder as the victim’s ordeal continues even after the incident, the Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court on Thursday.

Countering the defence’s argument in the Shakti Mills gang-rape case, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni said while a rape victim “may continue breathing after the offence,” it causes a “severe detrimental effect” on her.

Advocate Yug Chaudhry, representing three of the five convicts in the case, had contended that section 376 (E) of the IPC, under which his clients were awarded death penalty, does not prescribe a punishment proportional to the crime.

As death is the maximum punishment for murder, the same punishment should not have been prescribed for a repeat offence of rape, because rape does not amount to homicide, he had said.

Opposing the argument before a bench of Justices B P Dharmadhikari and Revati Mohite-Dere, Kumbhakoni said, “It is not permissible to weigh in the scales of justice whether murder is a higher offence than rape”, and “comparison of two offences is impossible”.

To buttress the point about seriousness of the offence of rape, he also cited the case of KEM Hospital nurse Aruna Shanbaug who remained in a vegetative state for over 40 years following a brutal sexual assault.

“In fact I would go a step ahead and say the offence of rape is graver than the offence of murder,” he said, justifying the death sentence for three of the convicts in the case.

“Rape is not merely a physical attack. It alters the rest of the life of the victim, destroys her personality, and often, victims of rape commit, or attempt to commit suicide,” the advocate general said.

In April 2014, a sessions court held five persons guilty for rape of a woman photo-journalist at the deserted Shakti Mills compound in Central Mumbai.

Of them, Vijay Jadhav, Kasim Bengali and Salim Ansari were sentenced to death under the then newly introduced section 376 (E) of the IPC as they were convicted in a previous case of gang-rape.

The three have challenged constitutional validity of section 376 (E) which provides death for a repeat offence of rape.

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