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Friday, 29 June, 2001, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
Death penalty for killer sisters
The sisters were sentenced to death in the western Indian state of Maharashtra
By Sanjeev Srivastava in Bombay

In a rare ruling, a court in the western Indian state of Maharashtra has sentenced to death two sisters convicted of kidnapping 13 children and killing six of them.

The Kolhapur district and sessions court judge ordered that the women - Renuka Kiran Shinde and D Seema Gavit - be hanged.

It is only the fourth time that women have received the death penalty in India.

Pronouncing the verdict on Thursday, the judge said that the convicts kidnapped innocent children who were unable to offer any resistance.

The children were then tortured and forced to beg.

Shocking case

According to the judge, the sisters and their mother - who died in custody - used to kill the children brutally once they outlived their utility.

Indian court
Only the fourth death sentence against women in India
Several thousand people gathered inside and outside the trial court in Kolhapur to hear the verdict in a case which shocked local residents when the accused were arrested more than five years ago.

It came to light when Shinde and Gavit were arrested in 1996 for the abduction of their nine-year-old step sister, Kranti, who was subsequently killed by the sisters and their mother.

Renuka Shinde's husband Kiran was also involved but was granted a pardon by the court after he turned police approver and deposed against the three women.

Renuka and Kiran have four children.

Reports said the sisters showed no signs of emotion or remorse on hearing the verdict which was delivered in a packed courtroom.

'Starved and tortured'

Describing the killing of children as the most reprehensible and heinous of crimes, Judge GL Yedke said the sisters seemed to have enjoyed killing children.

Some of the killings seem to testify the observations of the judge.

The trial, which began in September 1998, witnessed a few tense moments, particularly when the gory details were related in front of the victims' parents.

The sisters are reported to have smashed the head of one-and-a-half-year-old Santosh with an iron bar.

Another four-year-old, Pankaj, was hung upside down and his head repeatedly smashed against the wall for getting too friendly with a neighbour.

According to the police the abducted children were often starved and tortured if they cried.

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See also:

11 Jun 01 | Americas
Death penalty worldwide
06 May 99 | South Asia
Indian held in murder scandal
28 Jan 98 | World
Death sentences in Gandhi trial
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