Three students of Global Jindal University in Sonepat were sentenced on May 24 –main accused Hardik Sikri and his friend Karan Chhabra for 20 years each for gangraping and blackmailing a junior from the same varsity. The third, Vikas Garg, was handed a seven-year jail term.
The judge who pronounced the judgement said the WhatsApp chats were so abusive and vulgar that the extracts of the same couldn’t be explained and put into the judgment .(AFP File Photo)
Detailed and explicit WhatsApp conversations between a rape victim and three law students of a private university in Haryana proved crucial evidence for their conviction by a trial court, show documents made available on Monday.
It was a rare instance of electronic data used as evidence to nail the accused in India, which has seen a sharp rise in video clips of sexual assaults circulated through social media and messaging apps.
The three former students of OP Jindal Global University in Sonepat were sentenced on May 24 –main accused Hardik Sikri and his friend Karan Chhabra for 20 years each for gangraping and blackmailing a junior management student for about two years. The third, Vikas Garg, was handed a seven-year jail term.
“The WhatsApp chats running into pages is so abusive and vulgar that the extracts of the same cannot be explained and put into the judgment and what only can be concluded through the WhatsApp chat is that the prosecutrix (victim) was totally under control and dominance of the accused, Hardik,” additional sessions judge (ASJ) Sunita Grover said in her judgment.
The convicts, all from Delhi, are in jail since April 2015 when the girl accused the three final-year law students of raping her from the time she joined the university in August 2013.
Hardik had circulated her nude pictures among his friends through the free messaging service. He had stored the pictures in an web storage platform – Apple’s I-cloud — and threatened to make them public on the university’s website. The judge also found him guilty of circulating obscene material.
The judge said the messages proved the victim was under “stress” and “duress” to keep sharing more nude pictures with Sikri. He also forced her to purchase and use a sex toy so that he could watch her via Skype, an online service for sharing text messages and live videos.
Sikri had forced her to travel with him to Chandigarh for having sex and this was proved by the electronic data, which the court treated as documentary evidence supporting the girl’s statement to police and the judge.
The judge rejected the defence argument that the girl was a consensual partner as she had admitted to have consumed drugs and had volunteered to purchase beer on their Chandigarh trip.
The judge referred to the conversations and said the accused were in a dominating position because they were her seniors and the victim was in a vulnerable state.
Advocate Prashant Mendiratta, the girl’s legal advisor, said the verdict is probably the first of its kind dealing extensively with electronic data.
“The court accepted the evidence because it was original and taken from the girl’s cellphone directly,” he told HT.
The judge also disagreed with the defence advocate’s attempt to tarnish the girl’s reputation, saying a rape victim cannot be viewed as an accomplice.