New Delhi: A special court in Delhi Friday sentenced former BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar to life imprisonment for raping a teenager in Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh in June 2017.
He was also ordered to pay Rs 25 lakh in compensation, of which Rs 10 lakh is to go to the rape survivor and Rs 15 lakh to the prosecution.
District judge Dharmesh Sharma had convicted Sengar Monday, under Sections 376 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code, read with Sections 5(c) and 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.
Justice Sharma delivered the verdict Friday after perusing Sengar’s financial details, as submitted by his lawyers.
If Sengar doesn’t pay the compensation within a month, the court ordered that the money be recovered by the Uttar Pradesh state government as arrears of land revenue or otherwise as provided under Section 421 of the CrPC.
Judge Sharma also directed the CBI to assess the threat level to the Unnao woman and her family every three months. Further, it asked the agency to explore other adequate steps for their protection, including a safe house and a “change of identities, if so desired by the family”.
On Tuesday, the court had deferred to 20 December the hearing on Sengar’s quantum of sentence, demanding to see Sengar’s nomination papers for 2017 elections to examine the assets declared by him before deciding on the amount and feasibility of compensation to be awarded to the rape survivor.
CBI counsel Ashok Bhartendu had sought adequate compensation for the survivor under Sections 357 and 357A of the CrPC, after taking into consideration Sengar’s financial status.
During the hearing Friday, Sengar’s lawyers Tanveer Ahmed Mir, Dhruv Gupta and Tushan Rawal submitted his financials to the court.
According to Sengar’s declaration in his nomination papers for 2017 elections, the judge noted, the total worth of his movable and immovable assets is Rs 1.44 crore.
Sengar’s lawyers, however, said there has been depreciation in this amount because of secured and unsecured loans taken by Sengar. They asserted that Sengar is the “sole breadwinner of the family”, that he has daughters of marriageable age, and that he has taken loans to pay his daughters’ education fees.
On the other hand, the survivor’s lawyer, Dharmendra Mishra, highlighted the “aggravating circumstances” in the case — the power differential between the two parties, the fact that Sengar was an MLA, the subsequent cover-up and the assault on the woman’s father.
On the issue of compensation, Sengar’s lawyers submitted an over 80-page spiral file documenting Sengar’s “social service”.
“It’s the recognition that people give him,” Mir told the court.
The arguments on sentencing revolved around applicability of Section 376(2)(i) of the IPC to the case. The applicability of the provision was to determine whether the maximum punishment would be life sentence or life sentence until the end of natural life, which essentially means no remission after 14 years of imprisonment.
The woman, who was 16 years old at the time of the incident, had accused Sengar of kidnapping and raping her.
The judge, however, acquitted co-accused Shashi Singh, who had allegedly brought the woman to Sengar on the night of 4 June 2017 after which she was confined and raped.
Court verdict pulled up CBI for ‘patriarchal approach’
In the order convicting Sengar, judge Sharma questioned the fact that the CBI took a year to file the chargesheet, saying it “halted” the progress of the trial.
The court also asserted that the investigation suffered from a “patriarchal approach” and that it had “not been fair” to the survivor and her family members.
“In my considered opinion, this investigation has suffered from patriarchal approach or inherent outlook to brush the issues of sexual violence against the children under the carpet apart from exhibiting lack of sensitivity and humane approach,” the judge said. “It appears that somewhere investigation in the instant case has not been fair qua victim of crime and her family members.”
The court highlighted that the CBI had not appointed a woman officer to deal with the case and wondered why the agency repeatedly summoned the survivor to its office.
“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 ‘AS’ had been recorded by calling her at the CBI office without bothering for the kind of harassment, anguish and re-victimization that occurs to a victim of sexual assault in such case,” judge Sharma said.