A MAN who had posed as a school van driver and kidnapped and sexually abused a 10-year-old student was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment by a special court on Saturday. Raju Sheikh, a 34-year-old driver, was convicted under Section 10 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act for aggravated sexual assault and kidnapping.
In 2013, the victim, a student of a South Mumbai school, was waiting for her school van around 7am. The girl in her deposition to the court said that her regular school van did not come, instead a red van arrived and halted. The accused gestured towards her and called her. He told the girl that her regular school van was out of order and that the usual driver had sent him instead. The girl sat in the van but immediately asked the accused where the other students were. The accused told her that he would pick the rest up on the way.
The girl then saw her usual van coming from the opposite direction and also all her friends in it. The accused had, meanwhile, begun touching the girl inappropriately. The girl realised something was wrong and opened the door of the running vehicle and jumped off. She was picked up by a few passersby. One of them took the number of the aunt the girl was living with and called her family to the spot.
The witnesses in the case included fire brigade officials who had seen the girl in a frightened state after she jumped off the vehicle. Sheikh was arrested from his residence based on the identification of the vehicle. The witnesses also included medical officials who had examined the girl immediately after the incident. In her bid to escape from the moving vehicle, the girl had sustained injuries to her forearm.
Special Judge Srishty Neelkanth found Sheikh guilty of three charges including section 354A (sexual harassment), 363 (kidnapping) and under POCSO Act. Sheikh, who was refused bail twice, has been in judicial custody since 2013.