Quantum of sentence for Kuldeep Sengar, convicted in Unnao rape case, likely to be decided today
A Delhi court on Tuesday is likely to decide on the quantum of sentence that should be granted to expelled BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar a day after he was convicted for the rape and abduction of a minor girl in 2017.
On Monday, District and Sessions Judge Dharmesh Sharma convicted Sengar even though it acquitted Shashi Singh, the co-accused on the benefit of doubt. Singh was alleged to have taken the survivor to Sengar on the pretext of helping her get a job. Moments later after the court order, Singh fainted in the court.
Sengar, 53, a four-time legislator who is also accused of hatching a criminal conspiracy against the survivor’s family and causing them harm, was convicted under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The court will hear arguments on the quantum of sentence on Tuesday.
After hearing arguments from both sides, the court is likely to declare the quantum of punishment. Sengar’s offences can invite a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.
Reading out his order, district judge Dharmesh Sharma noted that the testimony of the rape survivor, who is now 19, was “truthful and unblemished” against a “powerful person”. “She was under threat, worried. She is a village girl, not from cosmopolitan educated area... Sengar was a powerful person. So she took her time,” the judge said.
“A tirade was unleashed upon the girl and her family members... where imprints of the accused Sengar were quite visible,” the judge said. Sengar, once a powerful lawmaker, was in tears. The judge added that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) proved that the survivor was a minor and that Sengar was rightly prosecuted under the POCSO Act.
“The instant case manifests the multitudes of restrictions and taboos within which many women in the rural areas are brought up, grow and survive. It epitomizes the fear ingrained in the mind of young girl in the countryside or elsewhere against reporting issues of sexual assault by powerful adults,” the judge said in the order.
Lashing out at the CBI, the judge said that the “investigation has suffered from patriarchal approach or inherent outlook to brush the issues of sexual violence against the children under the carpet apart from exhibiting lack of sensitivity and humane approach”.
“It appears that somewhere the investigation in the instant case has not been fair qua victim of crime and her family members. The investigation has not been conducted by a woman officer... and 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 to a victim of sexual assault in such case,” the judge said.
According to the family, Sengar raped the survivor in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao on June 4, 2017. In April 2018, her father was beaten up by some people, and allegedly framed and arrested in an arms case. On April 8 that year, the survivor attempted self-immolation outside chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s residence, alleging police inaction in the rape case and demanding a first information report against Sengar. The next day, her father died in custody, allegedly due to his injuries.
In the wake of widespread outrage, the Allahabad high court transferred the rape case to the CBI, which arrested Sengar on April 10. In July, the agency filed a chargesheet in the rape case. Her family wrote to the then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in mid-July, saying they were under threat from Sengar and his accomplices.
The news of the letter was out in the open days after a truck rammed a car in which the survivor, her family and their lawyer were travelling on July 28. Two of the survivor’s aunts were killed in the incident in Rae Bareli, while she and her advocate sustained critical injuries. An FIR was filed the next day, and it booked Sengar and over a dozen others for murder and attempt to murder. Sengar was finally expelled from the BJP.
The Supreme Court took cognisance of the letter, transferred the matter to Delhi and directed the trial court to complete trial in 45 days. The day-to-day trial began at Tis Hazari Court on August 5. After undergoing treatment at Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the survivor was shifted to a rented accommodation in the national capital with help from the Delhi Commission for Women.
The trial in the high-profile case was held in camera. A special court was held at AIIMS on September 11, 12 and 13 to record the statement of the survivor, who was admitted there after she was airlifted from a hospital in Lucknow.
On August 9, the court framed charges against Sengar and Singh for criminal conspiracy, abduction, rape under the Indian Penal Code, and other relevant sections of the Pocso Act.
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 going on in the court.
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