More than five years after a nun was raped during the Kandhamal riots, a sessions court in Orissa Friday convicted three persons but acquitted six others for want of evidence.
Cuttack district sessions court judge Gyana Ranjan Purohit held Mitu alias Santosh Patnaik guilty under IPC section 376 (rape) while two others, Gajendra Digal and Saroj Bahdei, were convicted under IPC section 354 (outraging modesty of a woman). The court acquitted the remaining six accused since there was no evidence of their complicity in the crime. The quantum of punishment for the convicted trio is awaited.
The nun, now in her mid-30s, was working in the K Nuagaon block in 2008 when riots broke out. She was allegedly dragged out of a retired head clerk’s house by a mob of 30 armed men to the office of an NGO where she was raped on August 25. At the time she was assaulted, 12 policemen of the Orissa State Armed Police were camping in a school opposite the office of the NGO.
Though the case was initially committed to a fast-track court in Kandhamal trying all riot cases, it was transferred to a sessions court in Cuttack after the nun petitioned she would feel unsafe in Kandhamal.
Last December, the SC ordered the Cuttack court to deliver its verdict within three months. In February 2012, the SC had stayed the trial after the victim challenged the prosecution’s failure to cross-examine a sub-divisional magistrate who said the rape accused Santosh Patnaik “gave her a slap, pulled her saree, squeezed her breasts and did not commit any other overt act”.
Santosh Digal of the Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Diocese said: “We welcome the verdict. It was the most horrific crime that could happen to a woman. Over time, she has slowly put the past behind her and is ready to start a new life. She is being cared by senior nuns. We are all standing behind her, ready to provide all possible support.”
In 2012, the nun earned a master’s degree in psychology. She now wants to study law to “help women and children in distress”. After the incident, she has never visited Kandhamal.