All the three convicts in the Kopardi rape and murder case were given the death sentence by the Ahmednagar district sessions court on Wednesday afternoon. The court had on November 18, held main accused Jitendra Babubal Shinde alias Pappu (21) and co-accused Santosh Gorakh Bhaval (29) and Nitin Bhailume (28) guilty in the case. However, on November 21, advocate Prakash Aher, who represented accused Nitin Bhailumi in the case, arguing over the quantum of punishment, had sought leniency for Bhailume on the grounds that he was a student, comes from a poor and Dalit family and is the only support of his parents.
The victim, who belonged to the Maratha community, was found murdered after being raped on July 13, 2016 at Kopardi village in Ahmednagar district. This had led to widespread protests among the community, who took out marches across the state over it. The accused also inflicted injuries all over her body and broke her limbs before throttling her, police said. Reacting to the incident, the Ahmednagar Police on October 7 had filed the charge sheet running into over 350 pages before the court in which the trio was charged under IPC sections 302 (murder), 376 (rape) and relevant sections of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
Maratha community, by holding protests, had asked for a capital punishment for all three accused. It also created strong political ripples with the Opposition Congress and the NCP demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on moral grounds.
The order that was passed on November 18, was done in a packed courtroom and was heard by the public on loudspeakers installed on the court premises. A huge police force was deployed in and around the court premises, keeping in mind the safety. The court held Shinde guilty of conspiracy, sexual assault and murder while Bhailume and Bhaval were convicted for criminal conspiracy. Family members of the victim, including her parents, sister, brother and relatives, and villagers from Kopardi were present on the court premises.
Responding to this order, the family had said that all three should be awarded the death penalty. “Parents, especially in rural areas, need to interact with their daughters more and make them speak up,” Special Public Prosecutor Ujwal Nikam had said after the decision.