The Allahabad High Court has commuted the life sentence of an Aligarh resident convicted for raping an eight-year-old girl in 2005 and dropped charges under the SC/ST Act against him. It also ordered that the convict may be released after being in jail for more than 12 years.
In a judgment passed on June 5, a bench comprising Justice Pankaj Naqvi and Justice Saurabh Shyam Shamshery, said, “[T]he conviction/sentence under Section 376 IPC r/w Section 3(2)(V) of SC/ST Act is altered to conviction under Section 376 IPC only on sentence undergone while acquitting the appellant under Section 3(2)(V) of SC/ST Act. The appellant is in jail. He shall be released forthwith, if not detained in any other case.”
Additional Advocate Rupak Chaubey, one of the government counsels, said they will challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court. In 2009, the convict was sentenced to life imprisonment and was convicted under IPC section 376 (rape) and the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 by a trial court.
The lawyer representing the convict argued in the High Court that there was no evidence to substantiate charge under the SC/ST Act as his client did not know that the victim belonged to the Scheduled Caste community. He also said the convict had been in jail since February 6, 2008 and if conviction was upheld, then the sentence should be reduced to the jail term undergone.
One of the government counsels argued that it was “highly probable” that the convict knew the girl belonged to Scheduled Caste as he was a resident of a nearby neighbourhood.
The HC observed, “Prosecution has not brought any evidence on record which could even suggest that the accused committed offence of rape, only for the reason that the victim was a member of Schedule Caste or Schedule Tribe as he had no prior acquaintance with the victim.”
The incident occurred on January 16, 2005, when the girl was raped by the man, then 20 years, after he lured her with Rs. 20 to the first floor of a vacant and dilapidated house in the neighborhood where she lived. After a complaint by her mother, police lodged an FIR. The medical examination of the girl confirmed rape.
The charge-sheet in the case was submitted on February 18, 2005 under IPC section 376 and section 3(2)(V) of the SC/ST Act.
During hearing in the trial court, the girl denied prior acquaintance with the convict and recognised him in the court as well as hospital.
“There was no reason to doubt trustworthiness of the witness, coupled with the fact that she also recognised the accused in the court,” the trial court had observed.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines