Delhi court sentences 2 men to 20 yrs RI for raping five-yr-old girl months after Nirbhaya case

Usha Rani Das

New Delhi, Jan 30 (PTI) A Delhi court on Thursday sentenced two men to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment for brutally raping a five-year-old girl and abandoning her in a house believing she was dead in Gandhi Nagar in 2013, just four months after the Nirbhaya incident.

The court said it took into consideration the young age and economic background of the convicts — Manoj Shah, 30, and Pradeep Kumar, 25 — but, in the interest of justice, it deemed it appropriate to sentence them to 20 years rigorous imprisonment for the offence punishable under section 6 (aggravated penetrative sexual assault) of the POCSO Act.

On April 15, 2013, the convicts had shoved objects in the victim's private parts and leaving her in a house believing she was dead. The child was rescued 40 hours later on April 17 and had to undergo multiple surgeries at AIIMS hospital in Delhi.

Coming after the Nirbhaya case — another gruesome gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old paramedic student — it had triggered a massive outrage as outraged students and women staged demonstrations at the India Gate, police headquarters and near the residences of then prime minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Additional Sessions Judge Naresh Kumar Malhotra granted a compensation of Rs 11 lakh to the victim, to be paid by the Delhi Legal Services Authority, out of which Rs 2 lakh is to be released to her immediately.

'I am of the view that the injuries suffered by the victim cannot be quantified in monetary terms. Taking into consideration the mental pressure or harassment which victim has suffered and her economic status, and that she was raped repeatedly and left to die, I deem it appropriate to grant a final compensation to the tune of Rs 11 lakh,' he said in the order.

He also imposed a fine of Rs 31,500 on each of the two convicts.

But senior advocate HS Phoolka, counsel of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, who represented the girl, said he will appeal against the order in the high court to seek life imprisonment for the convicts. 'We will move to high court demanding life imprisonment for the remainder of life and a higher compensation to the survivor,' he told PTI.

The nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi-led Bachpan Bachao Andolan expressed disappointment over the verdict, saying the convicts deserved to be in jail till death.

The BBA said the judge has shown leniency which has not done justice to the victim.

'BBA is deeply disappointed by Karkardooma POCSO court's sentence in the gang-rape case which was pivotal in bringing about change in child protection laws and which shook the conscience of the society,' it said in a statement.

The additional public prosecutor, appearing for police, too had told the court during the hearing that the convicts do not deserve any leniency as the crime was of the most heinous nature.

Phoolka said one of the convicts stalled the trial for three years by falsely claiming he was a minor at the time of the incident. 'After their conviction, one of the convicts even slapped a journalist. There was no remorse in his conduct. They should not be given any chance for reformation,' he said.

Advocate R S Juneja, appearing for the convict Shah, however said strict punishment is not a deterrent to the crime against children. 'After having stricter punishment, the crime against children has increased. After the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case, this incident happened.' To this, the public prosecutor said crimes have not increased, rather registration of crimes have increased due to stricter punishment.

On January 18, the court convicted Shah and Kumar under sections 363 (kidnapping), 342 (wrongful confinement), 201 (disappearance of evidence), 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 376 (2) (gang rape), 377 (unnatural offence) and 34 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 6 (aggravated penetrative sexual assault) of the POCSO Act.

In an over 100-page judgment, the court said: 'In our society, minor girls are worshipped as a goddess on certain occasions, but in the present case, the victim child, who was aged about five years at the time of the incident, had experienced exceptional depravity and extreme brutality.' 'The crime against the victim was committed in a most grotesque and revolting manner and the collective conscience of the community was shaken,' it said. PTI URD URD ABH ABH