A Delhi court on Monday held expelled BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar guilty of raping a minor girl in Unnao in 2017, and pulled up the CBI, saying its investigation “suffered from patriarchal approach or inherent outlook to brush the issue of sexual violence against children under the carpet”.
While Sengar was convicted under Section 376 (rape) of the IPC and Sections 5(c) & 6 of the POCSO Act, co-accused Shashi Singh was granted benefit of doubt and acquitted of all charges. The court will hear arguments on the quantum of sentence on Tuesday.
Saying that he found the victim’s testimony “unblemished, truthful and… of sterling quality”, District and Sessions Judge Dharmesh Sharma dismissed the defence counsel’s argument that the case was orchestrated since there was an over two-month delay in reporting it. “She comes from a village, not a cosmopolitan area. She had moments of anxiety and despair and was pitted against a powerful person,” said the Judge.
Sengar broke down while the Judge was reading out the verdict. His lawyers later said they would file an appeal in the Delhi High Court.
“When she met with the Chief Minister (Yogi Adityanath), there was a tirade unleashed upon the girl and family members… multiple cases were filed against the family members of the girl… the prints of Kuldeep (Sengar) are quite visible,” said the Judge.
He said the case “manifests the multitudes of restrictions and taboos within which many women in the rural areas are brought up, grow and survive. It epitomises the fear ingrained in the mind of young girls in the countryside or elsewhere against reporting the issues of sexual assault by powerful adults.”
“This case reflects that there is nothing wrong with the letter and spirit of the POCSO Act, but with its not so effective implementation at the ground level due to multitudes of stereotyped outlook towards commission of sexual assault against children or women,” he said.
“In my considered opinion, this investigation has suffered from patriarchal approach or inherent outlook to brush the issues of sexual violence against children under the carpet, apart from exhibiting lack of sensitivity and humane approach. …investigation in the instant case has not been fair qua victim of crime and her family members. The investigation has not been conducted by a woman officer as mandated by Section 24 of the POCSO Act and successive statements of the victim girl have been recorded by calling her at the CBI office without bothering for the kind of harassment, anguish and re-victimisation that occurs to a victim of sexual assault in such case,” the Judge said.
The court held that Sengar’s plea that he was not present near the incident spot has “not been proven beyond reasonable doubt or even by preponderance of probability”. The court also held that the prosecution was able to prove that Sengar’s movement on that day “was not in sync with movements on his two mobile phones…”
The court also dismissed the defence counsel’s claims that the case was orchestrated by the victim’s uncle. “It is not conceivable that the victim and her mother were not oblivious or mindful of vulnerability of three young girls in the family who stand to be subjected to shame, disgust and indignity in the society/ community,” said the Judge.
The case dates back to June 4, 2017, when the victim, then 17 years old, was allegedly raped by Sengar, a four-time BJP MLA from Bangermau in Uttar Pradesh — he was expelled from the BJP in August this year.
About a year later, on April 3, 2018, her father was allegedly framed in an illegal arms case and arrested. He died in judicial custody a few days later, on April 9, 2018.
On July 28 this year, a speeding truck rammed into the car in which the victim, her two aunts and their lawyer were travelling. Her aunts were killed while the victim and her lawyer were critically injured.
On August 1, the Supreme Court transferred the rape case, along with four other related cases, to Delhi, and directed the court to complete trial in 45 days. The judge heard the case on a day-to-day basis from August 5.
The four related cases are: framing of the victim’s father in an illegal firearms case and his death in judicial custody, conspiracy in the accident case, and a separate case of her alleged gangrape by three others in Unnao on June 11, 2017.
The Judge on Monday questioned the delay by the CBI in filing a chargesheet in the gangrape case.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines