Saturday, December 2, 2023

Delhi Court sentences 76-year-old priest to life imprisonment for raping minors repeatedly

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A Delhi Court has sentenced a 76-year-old temple priest to rigorous life imprisonment for raping two minor girls aged seven and nine years repeatedly, stating that the Court would be failing in its duty, if such predators are set free and allowed to circulate, endangering other children.

Additional Sessions Judge Vijeta Singh Rawat quoted Maya Angelou in ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ to express his outrage against the crime committed against two defenseless child victims,

“Then there was the pain. A breaking and entering when even the senses are torn apart. The act of rape on an eight-year-old body is a matter of the needle giving because the camel can’t. The child gives, because the body can, and the mind of the violator cannot – Maya Angelou,” said the Court.

While justifying the punishment for the accused, the Special Public Prosecutor submitted that the convict, who is a priest by profession, has committed rape upon two innocent children below the age of 12 years old, and the medical evidence has corroborated the testimonies of the victims.

It was further stated that the Counsel for the priest/accused could not prove any of the defence raised and did not examine any independent witness. He also pleaded for leniency, stating that the priest was a 76-year-old man, having no previous criminal record.

The Judge, while considering the objects of POCSO Act, observed, “The implementation of 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 Judge further observed that though the age of the convict has been emphasised to urge that it should be a mitigating circumstance, but it was not proved that the offences had been committed on account of any mental stress or emotional distress, further the victims were repeatedly raped by the convict from the age when he was 69-70 years old, which speaks volumes about the depravity and proclivity in the mindset of the convict, which is an aggravating circumstance.

He has betrayed the trust and respect the victims and the public had upon him, if leniency is shown, the court would be letting down the children, who have fought all odds to pursue the matter. These victims have been scarred for the future, the court noted.

The bench, while considering compensation for the two victims, observed that the purpose of Criminal Justice System is not only to attain catharsis by handing down proportional punishment to the offender, but also to rehabilitate the victims, who are scarred physically and mentally, forever.

“If we fail to do so, we are also abdicating our duties towards the child victims, whose physical and psychological well-being has been dented and who may have repercussions throughout life,” noted the Court.

Also Read: Delhi High Court defers Arjuna awardee’s plea seeking inclusion in Tokyo Paralympic Games to August 9

One of the victim had recently undergone surgery for recurrent abdominal pain, however as per medical reports, the same was not due to the sexual assault.

The court observed that the emotional trauma has also to be allayed and in that view to give effect to Restorative and Compensatory Justice and rehabilitate the victims, an amount of Rs 7.5 lakh each be given to the victims to secure their emotional and mental health and ensure that they have unhindered education, equipping them for a safer future.

The court observed that the convict does not have sufficient means to pay the compensation; ergo the same will be paid by the Delhi State Legal Services Authority.

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