A Delhi court convicted expelled BJP lawmaker Kuldeep Singh Sengar on Monday for raping a minor girl in Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh in 2017 saying the victim's testimony was 'truthful and unblemished' against a 'powerful person'. Senger was convicted for rape under the Indian Penal Code and the POCSO Act for offence by a public servant committing penetrative sexual assault against a child.
Delhi’s Tis Hazari court will hear arguments on quantum of sentence on Tuesday. The offences entail a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. District Judge Dharmesh Sharma, however, acquitted co-accused Shashi Singh of all charges.
Convicting 53-year-old Sengar under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, the court said the Central Bureau of Investigation proved that the victim was a minor and he was rightly prosecuted under the special law.
"I found her statement truthful and unblemished that she was sexually assaulted. She was under threat, worried. She is a village girl, not from cosmopolitan educated area... Sengar was powerful person. So she took her time..," the judge said while reading out the verdict.
When the judge started pronouncing the verdict, co-accused Singh fainted. The court noted that after the victim wrote letter to the UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, several criminal cases were filed against her family and "imprints of Sengar" were visible in them.
The court expressed surprise over the delay by the CBI in filing charge sheet in the rape case and said it prolonged trial against Sengar and others.
The court pulled up the CBI for the delay in filing the charge as also the absence of women officer in conducting the probe "without bothering for the kind of harassment, anguish and re-victimisation that occurs for a victim of sexual assault".
It also expressed displeasure over the agency leaking selectively the vital information relating to the statement of the survivor to put a cloud over her case.
The court said that "according to law there should be female officers in CBI to record statement of victims in such cases but surprisingly the girl was called many times to CBI office instead of going to her residence".
It noted that investigation in such cases has to be conducted by a woman officer as mandated under Section 24 of the POCSO Act but the successive statements of the victim girl had been recorded by calling her at the CBI office "without bothering for the kind of harassment, anguish and re-victimisation that occurs for a victim of sexual assault in such case".
Referring to the POCSO, which had come into being to impart expeditious justice involving children as victims of sexual assault, the court said there was "nothing wrong" with law but its ineffective implementation on ground and lack of human approach of officers concerned led to a situation where justice was delayed.
It said that the CBI itself was not following the manual relating to investigation and prosecution. The woman was allegedly kidnapped and raped by Sengar in 2017 when she was a minor.
The court had also framed charges against co-accused Shashi Singh in the case. Sengar, a four-time BJP MLA from UP's Bangermau, was expelled from the BJP in August 2019.
The court had on August 9 framed charges against the MLA and Singh under Sections 120 b (criminal conspiracy), 363 (kidnapping), 366 (kidnapping or inducing a woman to compel for marriage), 376 (rape) and other relevant sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
The trial in the high profile case was held in-camera after the Supreme Court transferred the matter from UP to the national capital.
A special court was also held at AIIMS hospital here on September 11, 12 and 13 to record the statement of the rape survivor, who was admitted there after she was air-lifted from a hospital in Lucknow.
The judge heard the case on a day-to-day basis from August 5 after it was transferred to Delhi from a court in Lucknow on Supreme Court's directions.
On July 28 this year, the car of the survivor was hit by a truck and she was severely injured. The woman's two aunts were killed in the accident and her family had alleged foul play.
Her father was allegedly framed in an illegal arms case and arrested on April 3, 2018. He died while in judicial custody a few days later, on April 9. The local court here has framed murder and other charges against the MLA, his brother Atul and nine others in the case.
The apex court, taking cognisance of the rape survivor's letter written to the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, had on August 1 transferred all five cases registered in connection with the Unnao rape incident from a Lucknow court in Uttar Pradesh to the court in Delhi with directions to hold trial on daily basis and completing it within 45-days.
The trial in the other four cases -- framing of the rape survivor's father in illegal firearms case and his death in judicial custody, conspiracy of Sengar with others in the accident case and a separate case of gang rape of the rape survivor by three others -- are ongoing in the court.
During the trial in the rape case which was held in-camera, 13 prosecution witnesses and nine defence witnesses were examined. The mother of the rape survivor and her uncle were the main witnesses in the case.
The woman and her family are provided CRPF security as per the apex court's orders. They have now been shifted to a rented accommodation in the national capital with the assistance of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW).