A Delhi court on Tuesday sentenced Brajesh Thakur to imprisonment till his last breath for sexual and physical abuse of minors at a shelter home in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, and held that being the owner of the childcare institution he was expected to display “compassion, sobriety and righteousness”.
Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Saurabh Kulshreshtha observed that Thakur “not only betrayed the trust and faith of the victim girls but also displayed extreme perversity and monstrosity by committing such abhorrent acts with numerous helpless minors girls”.
Therefore, the court ruled, “it is not a fit case for adopting the reformative and therapeutic approach”.
On January 20, the court had convicted 19 people, including Thakur, 55, owner of the shelter home.
Besides Thakur, ASJ Kulshreshtha handed five other convicts life term till their last breath.
Five of them were sentenced to life and six were sentenced to 10-year imprisonment.
The two others were sentenced to three years and six months in jail, respectively.
The court also imposed a fine of over Rs 30 lakh on Thakur.
Observing that the victims belonged to the poor strata, which justifies the need for grant of varying compensation, the court said that compensation between Rs 5. 50 lakh to Rs 10 lakh be paid to them. Some of them were asked to be paid compensation below Rs 1 lakh, keeping in mind the nature of sexual harassment.
Special Public Prosecutor Amit Jindal, representing CBI, had argued that rape is a “crime of lust and power”, and considering the “gravity and serious nature of the crimes, they (convicts) do not deserve any leniency”. He had argued for maximum punishment provided under the law, rigorous imprisonment for life — meaning the remainder of their natural lives — to send a strong message to the society.
Thakur’s counsels, advocates Pramod Kumar Dubey and Nishaank Mattoo, had argued that the convict has no previous criminal record and exhibited exemplary conduct during the period of his incarceration. In the event of a reduced sentence, in all possibility he would come out of jail and “reform himself into a respectable and law abiding citizen in the society”, they contended.
The counsel for the other convicts argued that a “reformative and therapeutic approach (should) be adopted as opposed to an in terrorem [by way of threat/warning] approach while sentencing the convicts, as they are not hardened criminals, and in all probability would reform themselves into respectable law-abiding citizens”.
The court did not agree with the convicts’ plea for leniency and said, “…In this era, where protection of girl child and emancipation of women are avowed societal objectives, it is lamentable that minor girls housed in a State-sponsored, State-monitored and State-funded children’s home (Balika Grih, Muzaffarpur, Bihar), meant for providing a safe and secure environment to the children/girls in need of care and protection, were subjected to such horrendous acts of rape and sexual assault in that very home. The facts of the case, as have unfolded, do not warrant a lenient approach.”
It also observed, “…this is not a case of a single solitary incident of rape, but a meticulously planned and ingeniously executed conspiracy wherein the caregivers, supervisors and administrators in State-sponsored children’s home themselves turned into predators, perpetrators of crime and abettors, and repeatedly subjected numerous minor girls to atrocious acts of rape and aggravated penetrative sexual assault over…about four years.”
In his 156-page order on sentence, ASJ Kulshreshtha noted: “The convict is not a young boy charged with solitary offence but a mature and experienced politician charged with (a) plethora of crimes and was kingpin of the conspiracy. Further, a person who is the owner of, or who in fact manages and exercises control over the affairs of such a child care institution…is expected to display compassion, sobriety and righteousness…”