MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court has upheld an order of the Pune sessions court passed in 2011 convicting and sentencing three men to life imprisonment in a gang-rape case, but made critical comments against defence lawyers and the judge in the case.
In an order passed on September 28, a bench of Justices Sadhana Jadhav and Sarang Kotwal, while upholding the conviction and life term, made some strong observations on the conduct of defence lawyers and the judge in the case, particularly during the cross-examination of the victim.
The HC said in the present case, the sessions judge “failed in his duty” to protect the dignity of the victim, an MBA graduate who was gang-raped in the Hinjewadi area of Pune.
The HC noted that the lawyers defending the accused persons had tried to suggest, among other things, that the victim had consumed alcohol and that she had had consensual sex with the accused.
The high court questioned the silence of the prosecution during such cross-examination.
It further remarked that the sessions judge, who heard the case, should not have remained passive and should have intervened when the lawyers subjected the victim, the primary witness in the case, to improper cross-examination.
“As far as the main incident is concerned, some suggestions were given on behalf of accused No.1 which show that the defence was trying to develop a theory of consensual sex,” the bench said.
“Once she had denied suggestion of consensual sex, further suggestions were put to her regarding graphic details of the act. These further suggestions were wholly unnecessary,” it observed.
The HC said such line of questioning could not be considered a “proper cross examination.”
“We strongly disapprove all these suggestions put to the witness. We are more pained because of the passive approach adopted by the learned Judge in allowing these questions,” the HC said.
“These suggestions crossed all lines of basic dignity. Under the garb of giving suggestions, graphic details of the act were put to the witness. This was wholly unwarranted.”
“The learned Judge has recorded that at that stage the witness was sobbing. The learned Judge should have intervened and stopped this line of cross-examination,” it said.
The HC said all courts are duty-bound to forbid any questions that might be offensive or meant to insult someone.
It further said that in the present case, the sessions judge failed to inform the woman that she must not feel compelled to answer the unwarranted questions.
The bench, however, said that while the cross examination was questionable, there did not exist any infirmity in the session court’s order convicting and sentencing the three accused persons to life imprisonment.
The HC said it did not find any reason to interfere with the Pune court’s order and thus upheld the life terms awarded to the accused – Subhash Hiralal Bhosale, Ganesh Uttam Kambale and Ranjit Shahaji Gade.
The victim was gang-raped by the accused near Information Technology Park at Mankar Chowk in Wakad on the outskirts of Pune on April 1, 2010, after she accepted a lift in their car.
The incident had highlighted the lack of security for women working in the Hinjewadi area, where several IT companies are located.