12 October 2023 :

A Kolkata high court division bench on October 6, 2023 set aside the death sentences earlier ordered by a sessions court to three of the six convicts in the 2013 gang rape and murder of a 20-year-old college student at Kamduni village in North 24 Parganas district, a crime that triggered an uproar in West Bengal and bore strong resemblance to the 2012 Nirbhaya incident in Delhi.
The bench comprising justice Joymalya Bagchi and justice Ajay Kumar Gupta turned the death sentences faced by Saiful Ali and Ansar Ali into life imprisonment and acquitted Amin Ali, who, too, faced death sentence, citing lack of evidence, lawyer Phiroze Edulji, who represented the convicts, said.
In the order, a copy of which was seen by HT, the judges said : “I am of the opinion the trial court erred in awarding death penalty with reference to the gravity of the offence alone. State has failed to prove conspiracy and prior concert in the crime beyond reasonable doubt. It has also not led evidence to rebut the possibility of reformation and rehabilitation.”
They added: “On the other hand, conduct of the appellants in the correctional home is satisfactory and other unrebutted materials before this court gives rise to a reasonable belief that there is high possibility of reformation and rehabilitation of the appellants. Alternative punishment of life imprisonment for the remainder of natural life is a more humane substitute that adequately addresses societal concerns of recidivism.”
Three other convicts – Sheikh Imanul Islam, Aminur Islam and Bhola Naskar - who were sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment by the sessions court, were released by the division bench against bail bond of ₹10,000 each as they had already served the period behind bars, Edulji said.
All the sentences were pronounced in January 2016 by additional district and sessions judge Sanchita Sarkar who, while passing her verdict, described the Kamduni crime as “rarest of the rare.”
These were the first death sentences passed in a rape case in West Bengal after the then President of India Pranab Mukherjee promulgated the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2013 that the Centre introduced in view of the Nirbhaya incident.
“It is a historic verdict. The bench set aside all three death sentences and Amin Ali was acquitted as there was no evidence against him, according to the honourable judges,” said Edulji.
“Two more accused persons, Rafiqul Islam and Noor Ali, were acquitted in 2016 by the lower court. The state government challenged that acquittal order but the bench upheld it as well,” Edulji added.
On June 7, 2013, the victim, who was a second-year under-graduate student, was returning to her home at Kamduni, around 25 km to the north of Kolkata, after appearing for her college exams. The woman was walking alone from the railway station when she was abducted and dragged to a desolate farm.
Her mutilated body, with the private parts ripped apart, was found by local people the next morning, police and forensic reports said in 2013.
Days after the crime triggered a people’s movement in Kolkata and the districts, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government handed over the case to the criminal investigation department (CID).
The CID arrested nine people of whom Rafiqul Islam and Noor Ali were acquitted due to lack of evidence and Gopal Naskar died during trial.
After the crime, two friends of the victim, Mousumi Koyal and Tumpa Koyal, became the faces of a movement that Bengal did not witness in recent history. They took members of the victim’s family to Delhi and met the President to seek justice. Citizens took to the streets in Kolkata and the districts. A Bengali movie based on the incident became popular.
Mousumi and Tumpa Koyal broke down at the high court premises on Friday afternoon after the bench passed the order.
While lawyers raised questioned on the charge sheet filed by CID, Mousumi Koyal said, “The state government failed to ensure justice. We will not accept this.”
“We will move the Supreme Court challenging this order,” said the victim’s brother.
The court order drew reactions from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Bengal BJP’s chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said: “The verdict is extremely disappointing. The brutality at Kamduni exceeded what we saw in the Nirbhaya case. People wanted capital punishment. After these convicts are released, residents of Kamduni will live in fear. Women will never feel secure on those roads. The CID investigation had flaws. It was done to shield the accused.”
TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh said, “A political party cannot comment on a court’s decision.”
No police officer was willing to speak on the court order.


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