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Rape is a brutal, heinous and odious crime which is often used by the offenders to establish their dominance, satisfy their ego and lust. It is a disgrace on this society to see offenders committing the act of rape and going unnoticed, especially and specifically, if such offender is a person with power.
However, in the present case, the Additional District Judge Dharmesh Sharma, Tis Hazari Court convicted the Uttar Pradesh MLA, Kuldeep Singh Sengar, in the infamous Unnao rape case.
Background in brief:
The victim in the present case stated that she had been raped on 8th June, 2017 at the residence of the accused-convict, Kuldeep Singh Sengar who was a member of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) then and a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Uttar Pradesh from Unnao constituency.
The victim stated that she had gone to the accused-convict’s house to seek employment where she was raped. When no action was taken, the victim had stated the same in a letter to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh on 17th August, 2017.
Much to her disappointment, neither any action was taken nor was her complaint acknowledged, which led to the victim trying to immolate herself in front of the CM’s residence. This lead to public attention which turned into an outrage in no time. In the meantime, the father of the victim was falsely accused and put in judicial custody.
He died of injuries from the assault by supporters of the accused-convict. It was only when the victim’s father died and she tried to immolate herself, the FIR was registered against the accused-convict, Sengar.
Furthermore, on July 28, the victim’s car was hit by a truck, the victim and her lawyer suffered injuries while her two aunts died and the family suspected foul play. As a result, the Supreme Court of India transferred all 5 cases related to the Unnao Case from a Lucknow Court to the Tis Hazari Court in Delhi.
On 16th December 2019, the Tis Hazari Court, Delhi convicted Kuldeep Singh Sengar of rape under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (herein referred to as ‘IPC’) and Section 5(c) of the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (herein referred to as ‘POCSO Act’).
“The testimony of the survivor (PW-10) has been unblemished, truthful and has been proved to be of ‘sterling quality’ to arrive at a conclusion that she was sexually assaulted by Kuldeep Singh Sengar at his evidence at Village Makhi on 04.06.2017”, the judge observed.
The case was heard on a day-to-day basis. The Court had also framed other charges against the convict and other accused in the other four cases, which are, (i) framing of victim’s father in illegal firearms’ case, (ii) victim’s father’s death in judicial custody, (iii) conspiracy of the convict and other accused in the accident of July 28, lastly (iv) a separate gang rape case of the victim.
The relevant sections that form the present case are Section 375 of IPC which deals with the offence of rape and Section 376 of IPC which deals with the punishment of rape. In addition to this, Section 5 and 6 of POCSO Act have proved to be relevant as the victim was a minor when the horrendous act was committed. Section 5 relates to the ‘Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Assault’ while Section 6 states the punishment for the same.
The court, in the present case, observed that the investigation had not taken place according to the provisions of POCSO Act, where it is clearly mandated by the relevant Section 24 that an investigation must be conducted by a woman officer.
Furthermore, the Court severely criticised the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for taking over a year to file the charge sheet. Additionally, the Court further slammed the CBI for ‘leaking’ information and non-examination of data from the convict’s mobile phone.
The Court also observed that a delay of over 2 months in reporting of the said crime was satisfactorily explained by the complainant as she was threatened and menaced by the convict and his supporters.
The Court further observed, “this investigation has suffered from patriarchal approach or inherent outlook to brush the issues of sexual violence against children under the carpet apart from exhibiting lack of sensitivity and humane approach”.
The judge stated in the end that “there is nothing wrong with letter and spirit of POCSO Act”.
Quantum of punishment:
On 20th December 2019, the Delhi Court sentenced the convict, Kuldeep Singh Sengar, to undergo imprisonment for life for the remainder of his natural biological time and pay a fine of rupees 25,00,000/- (Rupees Twenty Five Lakh only) under section 376(2) of IPC.
Out of such amount, rupees 10,00,000 (10 Lakh) shall be paid to the victim as compensation and the remaining 15,00,000 (15 Lakh) to the prosecution as costs. In any case, if the fine is not paid within a period of one month, the same shall be recovered as land revenue arrears by the State of Uttar Pradesh as stated under Section 421 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1974 (CrPC).
In addition to this, the CBI has been directed to give the victim and her family the necessary protection required.
During the hearing on quantum of punishment, the prosecution asked for maximum punishment while the convict based his arguments on the fact that he has a daughter of marriageable age and that he has worked for the welfare of the society and public being a four-time MLA.
Considering the contentions and arguments, the Court rightly observed the facts and evidences and awarded a just punishment.
The present case is one where the power of the accused-convict put many hurdles to seek justice, however, the ends were met after a series of mistakes and events. It can be concluded that we still live in a society that is burdened by the power of the politicians and wealthy where the poor and the minorities in our society are scared, threatened and menaced.
When one raises their voice against such a powerful section of the society, they are met with obstacles to ruin their morale and will to perform a good deed. The stigma of patriarchy and misogyny is prevalent in the society that lead to such ferocious crimes against women and they often go unnoticed.
Therefore, the case at hand was a perfect start to deal with such stigmas and make the power-holders realize that nobody is above the law.
Author: Dakshi Khatri from Symbiosis Law School, Pune.
Editor: Farsana Sadiq from Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia.