The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday suspended the sentences of three persons, who were convicted by a Sonepat trial court for repeated gang rape and blackmail of a fellow student of a private university in 2013.All the three were law students of the university in Sonepat. The FIR in the case was registered in 2015 on the basis of the victim’s statement.While Hardik Sikri and Karan Chhabra were sentenced to 20 years in jail, Vikas Garg was given a seven-year sentence by the trial court.In the order, delivered last week by justice Mahesh Grover and justice Raj Shekhar Attri, the High Court said, “The testimony of the victim does offer an alternate story of casual relationship with her friends, acquaintances, adventurism, and experimentation in sexual encounters and these factors would therefore, offer a compelling reasons to consider the prayer for suspension of sentence favourably, particularly when the accused themselves are young and the narrative does not throw up gut-wrenching violence that normally precede or accompany such incidents.”’Alternate conclusion of misadventure’The court, while accepting the applications of suspension of sentence, said, “We are conscious of the fact that allegations of the victim regarding her being threatened into submission and blackmail lends sufficient diabolism to the offence, but a careful examination of her statement again offers an alternate conclusion of misadventure stemming from a promiscuous attitude and a voyeuristic mind.”The court, however, clearly said, “Nothing said above should be construed to be an expression on the merits of the case.”“A careful examination of her statement again offers an alternate conclusion of misadventure stemming from a promiscuous attitude and a voyeuristic mind.”The court said: “It would be a travesty if these young minds are confined to jail for an inordinate long period which would deprive them of their education, opportunity to redeem themselves and be a part of the society as normal beings. Long incarceration at this stage when the appeal is not likely to mature for some time is likely to result in an irreparable damage. We are also of the opinion the pendnecy of appeal, ironically may work as a guarantee to prevent a repeat resulting from fear of incarceration in the event of failure of appeal.“We have considered the argument of the learned counsel and have thought it prudent to refer to the statement of the prosecutrix and her cross-examination in extenso to gain and give an insight into the immature but nefarious world of youngsters unable to comprehend the worth of a relationship based on respect and understanding. The entire crass sequence actually is reflective of a degenerative mindset of the youth, breeding denigrating relationships mired in drugs, alcohol, casual sexual escapades and a promiscuous and voyeuristic world. No wonder, what is thrown up before us is a tragedy of sorts, driving four young lives into an abyss.“There’s no doubt that few allegations of the victim regarding blackmail, if correct, need strongest condemnation with equal forceful retribution that the law mandates. What is equally worrisome is how to retrieve the youth who have dragged themselves and their families into an abysmal situation, be it the victim or the perpetrators.“Indeed all the transgressions if established would demand retributory justice at the time of decision of the appeal, but while dealing with an issue of suspension of sentence, we are constrained to not only keep in mind the gravity of the situation and the offence, but also to strike a balance between the retributory reformatory and rehabilitative justice.” The court ordered that counselling be provided to the three men by a psychiatrist of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). It also ordered a compensation of ₹ 10 lakh to the victim.