New Delhi, January 18
A POCSO court convicted two men on Saturday for raping a five-year-old girl in east Delhi seven years ago, saying the case had shaken the collective conscience of the society.
The gruesome incident, in which convicts Manoj Shah and Pradeep Kumar shoved objects in the victim’s private parts and abandoned her in Shah’s room believing she was dead, had happened four months after the Nirbhaya gangrape-murder case in December 2012. The child was rescued 40 hours later on April 17, 2013.
Additional Sessions Judge Naresh Kumar Malhotra convicted the two, saying the child experienced exceptional depravity and extreme brutality.
“Collective conscience of the society shaken. In our society, minor girls are worshipped as goddess,” the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) court said.
The father of the victim expressed satisfaction on finally getting justice for his daughter. “Though the trial should have been completed in two years, we are happy we got justice after six years,” he said.
The court fixed January 30 for arguments on quantum of sentence.
Shah and Kumar were arrested by Delhi police separately from Muzaffarpur and Darbhanga in Bihar, respectively, in 2013. The chargesheet was filed on May 24 that year and charges were framed by the court on July 11.
The police had said some foreign materials—three pieces of a candle and one hair oil bottle—were taken out from the body of the victim, which was also proved by doctors during recording of their statements in the court.
Anger over the incident spilled onto Delhi’s streets as outraged students and women staged demonstrations at the India Gate, police headquarters and near the residences of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Singh had said collective efforts were needed to root out such “depravity” from society.
Placard-wielding protesters had also gathered at the AIIMS, where the girl was undergoing treatment, and burnt the effigy of then Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar, demanding his sacking.
While in the Nirbhaya case, a trial court had convicted and awarded death penalty to the four convicts in a span of 10 months, it took six years, seven judges and 57 prosecution witnesses to complete the trial in the 2013 'Gudiya' gangrape case.
It took almost a year for the court to complete recording statement of the accused, from December 5, 2018 to September 25 last year, following which the prosecution and the defence counsel completed their final arguments last December.
The trial saw an interesting turn in 2014 when Kumar had moved the court claiming he was a juvenile at the time of his arrest.
The trial court took three years to decide his application of juvenility and transferred the case in April 2017 to the Juvenile Justice Board, which granted him bail in June.
Following this, the mother of the rape survivor moved the Delhi High Court against the trial court’s order declaring Pradeep to be a juvenile.
The high court had in 2018 declared that Pradeep was not a juvenile and sent him to trial before the sessions court.
The court had framed charges of raping a minor, unnatural offence, kidnapping, attempt to murder, destruction of evidence and wrongful confinement with common intention under the Indian Penal Code against the two.
It had also framed charges of aggravated sexual assault under the POCSO Act, which entails a maximum punishment of life term.
Charges of rape and unnatural offence were slapped on the two by the court as these two sections were not invoked by the police in its chargesheet. PTI
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