Chandigarh 10-year-old’s rape case: Verdict against uncles today
A fast-track court in Chandigarh is on Tuesday expected to pronounce its verdict in the rape of a 10-year-old girl, a case that made national and international headlines after the Supreme Court turned down her plea for abortion.
The girl, who gave birth to a baby girl on August 5, has accused two of her uncles, both brothers, of raping her over five months. If found guilty, the two men, who like the girl and her family are from Nepal, would face life imprisonment.
The defence on Monday closed its arguments in the case, which was heard daily for the last three and a half months.
In mid-July the girl’s mother, a domestic help, took her to a hospital after she complained of stomach ache. Doctors found that the girl was 30-week pregnant.
A local court dismissed the girl’s plea of abortion after a doctors’ panel said she was too far into her pregnancy and the procedure would be too risky. The decision was upheld by the Supreme Court.
India has a 20-week legal ceiling on abortion except when there is a risk to mother’s life. But in recent times, there has been a flood of petitions, with women, including rape victims, seeking termination beyond 20-week limit.
Twists and turns
On the girl’s complaint, police arrested her older uncle, her mother’s cousin who was a guard at a Chandigarh hotel, for the rape.
But the case turned on its head when the DNA samples of the newborn didn’t match those of the uncle, as first reported by Hindustan Times on September 11.
Seventeen days later, police arrested the man’s younger brother, saying he was the main accused.
Both the brothers have been charged with raping an under-12 child and aggravated sexual assault under the stringent protection of children from sexual offences act.
The older man used to stay with his younger brother’s family in the same sector as the victim.
The girl told police that she was first raped by the younger uncle, a cook with the same hotel as his brother, around Christmas in 2016. The older uncle, too, assaulted her repeatedly from April till early July, she said.
Initially, the girl didn’t name the younger uncle, fearing he would come good on his threat of killing her parents.
Both the accused confessed to the crime, police said.
The crime, which shook everyone including the medical fraternity for which is was a rare case of such a young pregnancy, has been constantly monitored by the Supreme Court.
The Chandigarh state legal services authority and the trial court have been regularly sending status reports to the top court. Though it refused abortion, the Supreme Court ordered the Centre to ask states to set up permanent medical boards in each district to quickly decide on pleas of pregnant women and girls seeking termination beyond the permissible 20-week period. The Centre has issued a notice to the states.
Defence raises questions
Closing his arguments on Monday, the older uncle’s lawyer Manjit Singh pointed the finger at the victim’s parents, alleging the mother was “least bothered” about biological changes in her daughter’s body.
Singh also questioned the father’s constant absence from the hospital and court proceedings.
He also said in her second statement the 10-year-old had said denied that she was threatened not to name her younger uncle.
Singh also raised questions the girl’s statement that she was raped between Christmas 2016 and April 2017 and the younger uncle impregnated her, saying the girl gave birth in August, eight months after she was raped the first time.
According to hospital sources, the baby was born prematurely. The baby has since been put up for adoption.
The older uncle has also accused the girl’s father of molesting his minor daughter when she visited India last year.