All three convicts in the Kopardi rape and murder case, which shook Maharashtra in July a year ago and triggered an agitation by members of the Maratha community, were given the death sentence by a fast-track court here on Wednesday. When the crime came to light late, it sparked off widespread condemnation and protests across the state with Maratha groups demanding capital punishment for the accused.
It was believed that on July 13, 2016, the three convicts have brutally raped a 14-year-old girl in Kopardi village in Karjat taluka of Ahmednagar district.
After the verdict, the mother of the victim broke down and thanked everyone who helped the case reach its end. The government has appointed Ujjwal Nikam as a special public prosecutor in the case. The girl was a Maratha while the convicts are dalits.
Nikam said he was satisfied with the court's verdict.
"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.
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The other two accused, Santosh Bhaval, 36, and Nitin Bhailume, 26, had been held guilty of molestation, criminal conspiracy and murder. During the trial, the prosecution examined 31 witnesses and argued there were 24 types of evidence against the three.
Nikam had earlier told the court that four to five days before the incident, the accused had stopped the girl and tried to molest her. The three convicts were brought to the Ahmednagar district and sessions court in heavy security around 9.30am.
When the sentence was read out on Wednesday, the three accused were speechless. Bhawal and Bhailume were awarded three years for conspiracy in outraging of modesty, life sentence for conspiracy of rape and death sentence for conspiracy to murder.
The death sentence is subject to confirmation by the Bombay high court. He said the case had shaken the whole of Maharashtra and that is why state Government engaged Advocate Ujjwal Nikam for fighting the case and he ensured the guilty are punished.
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