MORE THAN a month after it convicted an accused for the rape of a 14-year-old deaf-and-mute girl in 2004, the Punjab and Haryana High Court Friday sentenced him to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment with remissions. “There is no discretion or power left in the court to award any sentence below 10 years,” the division bench of Justices A B Chaudhari and B S Walia said in the judgment.
The convict, Barnala resident Harwinder Kumar, pleaded he was a married man with children and so a sentence of only three years in jail should be awarded to him. However, the court said the law provided for a minimum of 10 years in jail for the offence.
Castigating an additional sessions judge for treating the rape case in a “most insensitive and irresponsible manner” during the trial, the division bench had on July 27 convicted Kumar and directed the Punjab government to provide her compensation within three months.
The trial court had acquitted the accused in 2009. The victim, a student of fourth class then, was continuously raped by two neighbours for 7-8 months. She also got pregnant on account of the rape and delivered a child later.
The trial in the case began in 2005. In 2009, the additional sessions judge in Barnala acquitted all the accused, including main accused Harwinder Kumar. Another accused Narinder Kumar was convicted at a later stage during a separate trial.
The trial court had acquitted the accused persons on the basis of the age of the victim and her alleged consent in the whole matter. The lower court judge had rejected the school record which showed 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 could be 19 years.