August 6, 2021 11:52:09 pm
“The child gives, because the body can, and the mind of the violator cannot” – a Delhi court cited these lines from American poet Maya Angelou’s autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, while sentencing a 76-year-old priest to life imprisonment for raping two minor girls inside a temple in South Delhi.
The convict, Vishva Bandhu, was sentenced to life imprisonment by Additional Sessions Judge Vijeta Singh Rawat in a sentencing order dated July 16. He was arrested in this case in 2014 for repeatedly raping two minors aged about 7 and 9 years old. The court also observed that he has “desecrated the temple where the children should have had a carefree and safe time”.
The court imposed a fine of Rs 60,000 on the convict, and also awarded Rs 7,50,000 to each victim to “secure their emotional and mental health and to ensure that they have unhindered education equipping them for a safer future”.
The accused was convicted for offences punishable under sections 376(2)/506(Part II) of the IPC and section 6 read with section 5(l) of the POCSO Act on February 26, 2021. The court said the “convict was a priest by profession and committed offences upon children within the sacred precincts of a temple”.
“He has betrayed the trust and respect of the victims and the public… No remorse was expressed at any stage of the trial. In the facts and circumstances of this case, if leniency is shown, this court would be letting down the children who have fought all odds to pursue the matter. These victims have been scarred for future. The court would also be failing in its duty if such predators are set free and allowed to circulate endangering other children,” the order read.
The court further said, “The offences were committed repeatedly on both victims. This only shows the rapacious and habitual conduct on part of the convict… such habitual sexual predators cannot be trusted with. He has even not cared for the respect and faith attached to his office as a priest and has also desecrated the temple where the children should have had a carefree and safe time. Therefore, the interest of justice would only suffice if the convict is sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for life.”
The court said the implementation of the POCSO Act “resonates the public sentiment that loathes child sexual abuse in the strongest terms”. “It has been framed to ensure that perpetrators with such depravity and proclivity, who do not spare the weak, defenceless, trusting and vulnerable children, need to be dealt with sternly because such dark moments of childhood can scar our children for a lifetime,” the court said.
It added that the “nature of offence proved against the convict is abhorrent. Even a single act of violating the dignity of a child deserves equal condemnation”.
The defence counsel said considering the accused’s old age, he deserves leniency. However, the court said “it has not been proved that the offences had been committed on account of any mental stress or emotional distress and also considering that extremely vulnerable victims were preyed upon by the convict despite his old age and, repeatedly, there seems to be no scope for reformation”.
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