[Jindal Gang Rape] Punjab and Haryana High Court upholds conviction and 20-year sentence of two accused, acquits one

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The Punjab and Haryana High Court on September 30 upheld the conviction and 20- year jail term of two former students of Jindal Global Law School (JGLS), Hardik Sikri and Karan Chhabra, who gang raped a classmate [Karan vs State of Haryana].

The Court, however, acquitted the third accused Vikas Garg giving him the benefit of doubt.

A bench of Justices Tejinder Singh Dhindsa and Pankaj Jain said that the survivor was denied basic dignity and compassion by the two accused which was evident from WhatsApp chats between the accused and the survivor.

The Court noted that the girl was continuously burdened by the pressure of accused Hardik Sikri and Karan Chhabra, who often forced her to send her nude pictures.

“The whole chat demonstrates the bawdiness with which the prosecutrix was treated by Hardik. She was not only abused and bruised but was denied even basic dignity to which a living creature is entitled to, leave aside the courtesy and compassion that a human being offers to a fellow. It is evident from the chat that she was in a quagmire. She was noosed and the dilemma that she was facing was not only to keep the noose loose but also to conceal it. Whole of the time she was carrying the burden of the diabolical designs of the accused,” the bench observed in its order passed on September 30.

Even the survivor’s mother was not spared and she had to hear abuses about her mother as well and any resistance on her part was chewed-out by the accused Hardik even more severely. In such a situation it can’t be said that she was a consenting party, the bench added.

The accused were booked under Sections 376D (Rape), 376(2)(n) (repeatedly raping same woman), 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 292 (circulating obscene material), 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 67 A of the Information Technology Act, which penalises publishing or transmitting any obscene material online.

As per the prosecution case, she had met the prime accused Hardik in 2013 and became friends.

Later, Hardik forced himself on her and this started a series of abusive acts and threats. He obtained her nude pictures and threatened to make the same viral unless she submitted to his demands.

The Court, while noting the medical and other evidence on record, found the testimony of the victim to be trustworthy.

“Consequently, no fault can be found with the trial court in believing the same. The prosecution has successfully proved that the prosecutrix was being blackmailed and forced into an abusive relationship. Hardik and Karan acting in furtherance of common intention committed rape upon her,” the bench said while holding that the trial court was right in convicting the duo under the relevant provisions.

The Court, however, noted that as far as the third accused Vikas Garg is concerned, the victim was in a position to say a “no” to him for his demands of sexual favor.

The bench said that the prosecution hasn’t placed any material on record to show “the meeting of minds” of Vikas and the other two accused and, therefore, quashed his conviction and acquitted him.

The case had grabbed eyeballs in September 2017 after the Punjab and Haryana High Court granted bail to the trio in a “controversial order” shaming the victim.

It had while granting bail to them considered the fact that the victim was habitual smoker and consumed alcohol and also that condoms were found from her room, while granting bail to them.

However, the Supreme Court had stayed the said order.

Senior Advocate APS Deol along with advocates Vishal Rattan Lamba, Abhimanyu Tewari, Sanya Kaushal and Aditya Singla appeared for applicant Karan.

Advocate SS Narula appeared for accused Hardik.

Senior Advocate RS Cheema alongwith advocates Arshdeep S. Cheema and Satish Sharma appeared for accused Vikas.

Advocate Preetinder S Ahluwalia appeared for the victim.

Additional Advocate General Randhir Singh represented State of Haryana.

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