A Delhi court on Saturday convicted two men of abducting and raping a five-year-old girl in east Delhi in 2013, an incident that came close on the heels of the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old paramedical student, with the judge saying that the “most grotesque” crime shook the collective conscience of the community.
Manoj Shah and Pradeep Kumar were convicted for brutally raping the minor girl — who later came to be known as Gudiya (not her real name)— at their rented house in Gandhi Nagar in April 2013. When rescued, the girl was found with candles and plastic bottles inside her body.
The quantum of punishment, which could range between at least 10 years in jail and life imprisonment, will be pronounced on January 30.
Saturday’s verdict came a day after a fresh date was set for the execution of four convicts in the 2012 gang-rape case that triggered nationwide protests and paved the way for stricter anti-rape laws in the country.
While convicting the two men for the rape of the five-year-old, additional sessions judge Naresh Kumar Malhotra said: “In our society, the minor girls are worshipped as goddesses on certain occasions but in the present case the victim child, who was aged 5 years at the time of the incident, had experienced exceptional depravity and extreme brutality. The crime against the victim was committed in a most grotesque and revolting manner and the collective conscience of the community was shaken.”
Shah and Kumar were found guilty of abduction (Section 363 of the Indian Penal Code), wrongful confinement (342) destruction of evidence (201), 307 (attempt to murder), gang rape with common intention (376-D), and under relevant sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act.
The verdict prompted Delhi chief minister to say that a system needs to be developed to ensure rape convicts are punished within six months. “Both accused in the gudiya rape case were found guilty. It took seven years. We need to all together correct this system. If we want to ensure that no one misbehaves with our sisters and daughters we need to develop a system which ensures that accused are punished within six months,” Kejriwal tweeted.
According to investigators in the 2013 case, Shah lived in a rent accommodation in the same building as the girl’s family and kidnapped her along with his friend, Kumar, while she was playing outside. After brutalising her, the duo locked their house and fled. The girl was found 40 hours later, on April 17, 2013, by a neighbour who alerted her parents, who had already filed a missing persons report. Doctors treating the girl found three candles and a bottle of hair oil inside her genitals.
While Shah was arrested from Muzaffarpur in Bihar, Kumar was held in Darbhanga.
Reacting to the Delhi court’s order, the child’s father said: “The last seven years have been a struggle for us with all the litigation and roaming around the courts. But today has come as relief for me… We do not want to think about the incident. My daughter does not remember anything.”
Her uncle lamented the time consumed by the legal battle. “Even though justice has been served, it has taken seven long years… Even after this, there is no surety as the case might go on in the high court and then the Supreme Court… We hope that the court punishes them severely,” he said.
When asked about the child, who is now 12 years, he said that she is now studying in Class 5 and doing fine. “Her parents are scared and often panic when they don’t find their daughter around. We have never discussed anything with her (victim) and do not want her to know anything that happened with her in the past. So, we changed our house and started living where no one knew us,” he said.
Both the convicts, who tried to plead that they were juvenile persons at the time of the incident, are now in their late 20s.
Just after the court pronounced its verdict on Saturday, Shah, while being escorted out by the police, hit a journalist and threw her phone as she tried to take a video. The court later took cognizance of the incident and asked the police officer concerned to register a formal complaint in the matter.
On Friday, the execution of the death sentence in the rape and murder of the 23-year-old paramedical student in 2012 was delayed, with a Delhi court issuing a fresh black warrant for 6am on February 1 for the four convicts after President Ram Nath Kovind rejected a mercy petition by one of them.