New Delhi: An alarming rise in cases of sexual offences against women and children in Delhi’s trial courts in 2014 remained a major concern notwithstanding few successful prosecutions, including Dhaula Kuan gangrape case involving a woman from north-east.
Exactly 45 days after the five rapists in the Dhaula Kuan case were sentenced to life term, the national capital was shamed again when a woman executive was raped by the driver of a US-based cab service provider putting a question mark on prosecution as the accused turned out to be a repeat offender committing the fresh crime while out on bail in a 2013 case.
The year gone by also witnessed some contentious decisions of acquittals and remarks that courted controversies with one judge terming “pre-marital sex” as “immoral” and against “tenets of every religion” and another judge holding that “sexual relations between legally wedded husband and wife, even if forcible, is not rape”.
However, away from the above two cases, a Tis Hazari court came out with an important verdict in which it said “because a woman is a sex worker, it does not confer a right upon anyone to violate her dignity,” and awarded 10 years jail to four youths for abducting and gang raping a Rwandan refugee.
While acquittals in sexual assault cases were climbing, there were cases, particularly against minors which resulted in convictions and most prominent was of a couple who was punished for jail terms of 10 and 7 years for kidnapping a 13-year-old girl and “subjecting her to horrific and sadistic sexual assault repeatedly”.
The minors, who were victims of sexual assault, in most cases were the sufferers at the hands of their relatives
but the accused succeeded in getting away without the maximum punishment of life imprisonment.
In one case the accused who was 26-year-old uncle of the nine-year-old victim was jailed for 10 years while in another, a relative got away with seven years imprisonment for assaulting an 11-year-old child.
Safety of minors in public places also became a concern and a 60-year-old man was held guilty of sexually assaulting a four-year-old girl in a temple even as other such cases like the April 2013 case of rape of six-year-old in east Delhi which is yet to be decided despite being prosecuted in fast-track court especially set up after the December 16, 2012 gang rape and murder case.
The six fast track courts grappled with over 1500 cases of sexual offence and disposed around 460 cases till December 20 and out of the total disposed of cases, including 36 matters of gang rape, there were 80 cases of conviction with 377 cases resulting in acquittals.
Over 1200 cases are still pending in various fast track courts, including 310 cases at Rohini court, 250 cases at Karkardooma court and 306 cases at Saket court, which hogged the limelight in 2014 for the case registered against Aam Admi Party leader and Delhi’s former Law Minister Somnath Bharti for allegedly molesting 12 African women at his controversial midnight raid.
Former BSP MP Dhananjay Singh also faced tough time at the Karkardooma court before he was acquitted in a rape case lodged by an east-Delhi woman, who herself turned hostile.
The relief also came to former Haryana MLA and businessman Gopal Kanda who was granted bail in the air hostess suicide case.
While there was rise in acquittals, a trial judge referred to Asian Centre for Women Rights’ report and said incidents of child rape have multiplied in the last decade and they have created a furore in the society.
However, some successful prosecutions noteworthy were the refusal of the court to spare a music teacher, who cheated a woman and raped her on the false promise of marriage and a married man was held guilty of rape as he had deceitfully entered into a wedlock by posting his fake profile on a matrimonial website.
Fake cases to “settle personal scores” also engaged the six trial courts in the year gone by and a model was prosecuted for the offence of perjury for lodging a false rape case against her brother-in-law with the court observing that it will be “failing in its duty if she is let off without punishment for giving false evidence”.
So was the case of a 64-year-old man, who was acquitted of the charge of raping his house maid with court observing that he was a senior citizen suffering from several ailments and it was “an onerous task to decide who was the real victim” holding that the maid falsely implicated him to extort money.
In another case, three women accused of forcing nine girls, including a minor, into prostitution and abetting their rape, were acquitted by a court which said the Delhi Police failed to trace most of the victims while the others turned hostile.
In a sensational case of gang rape and sodomy with three school-going kids in 2010, a court brought the curtain down by acquitting a cab driver with a direction for lodging of a case against two cops for falsely implicating him.
A court acquitted a man of the charge of sexually harassing a 17-year-old girl, saying it was a motivated case but expressed inability to punish the minor due to protection granted to her under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
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© 2017 State Times Daily Newspaper