Nine years after an Additional District and Sessions Judge acquitted the prime accused of raping a 14-year-old deaf and mute girl, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has now not only convicted the accused but has also castigated the judge who let off the man.
In a scathing judgment pronounced on July 27, the division bench comprising Justice AB Chaudhari and Justice BS Walia held that the case was treated by Additional District and Sessions Judge Vivek Puri in “most insensitive and irresponsible manner”.
Puri is currently posted as Legal Remembrancer to the Punjab government and holds the rank of District and Sessions Judge.
The division bench has now directed authorities to produce the convict on Friday for hearing on the quantum of sentence. The accused has been convicted for kidnapping and rape.
“We are aghast and feel extremely sorry that the learned Additional Sessions Judge, Barnala, has treated the case in a most insensitive and irresponsible manner,” the bench said in its order. “This court finds that the reasons given by the trial court are bound to shock one’s conscience,” the 18-page order reads.
In 2013, the Punjab government had moved the High Court against the acquittal order.
In 2004, when the crime took place, the 14-year-old girl was a student of fourth class. She was raped on several occasions by her two neighbours for seven to eight months. She got pregnant and delivered a child later. The trial in the case began in 2005. Four years later, in 2009, the Barnala court acquitted all the accused, including main accused Harwinder Kumar. Another accused Narinder Kumar was convicted at a later stage during a separate trial conducted by a different judge.
“We really wonder as to how the learned trial judge could, in a most cavalier and casual manner, ignore the fact that the girl not only became pregnant, but ultimately delivered a child, which is in her custody,” the HC has said in its order.
The trial court had acquitted the accused citing the victim’s age and her alleged consent in the whole matter. The lower court judge had rejected the school record which had shown her to be of 14.5 years of age at the time of rape and also rejected the ossification test which indicated her age to be between 15 and 17 years. Instead, the trial court held her age to be 19 years.
“… The fact remains that her entry of birth was made in the admission register of the school and that was proved without any challenge in the cross-examination,” the HC has said in order.
The division bench also said that the question of consent had no place in this case since it accepted the victim’s age as recorded in the school register.
In its verdict, the trial court had said that the resistance of an “unwilling female” would have resulted in tearing of clothes and infliction of injuries on her but there “could be a possibility” that the victim “might have submitted on account of any threat or fear on part of the assailant…”
“These reasons about tearing of clothes, infliction of injuries etc. are only a figment of imagination. There is no cross-examination for making these unwarranted remarks. This could not be a matter of whims and fancies,” the HC has said in its guilty verdict order.