A Protection of Children from Sexual Offences or 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 at Gandhi Nagar in April 15, 2013, in which the convicts 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 gang rape-and-murder case in December 2012. The child was rescued 40 hours later on April 17.
The POCSO court convicted Manoj Shah and Pradeep Kumar, and fixed January 30 for arguments on the quantum of sentence.
In an over 100-page judgement, Additional Sessions Judge Naresh Kumar Malhotra said: "In our society, minor girls are worshipped as goddess on certain occasions, but in the present case, the victim child, who was aged about five years at time of 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," the court said.
It convicted the two under sections 363 (kidnapping), 342 (wrongful confinement), 201 (disappearance of evidence), 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 376 (2) (gang rape), 377 (unnatural offence) and 34 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 6 (aggravated penetrative sexual assault) of the POCSO Act.
The offences entail a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.
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, hoping for death penalty for the convicts.
"My wife is at home with my daughter.... She has almost forgotten the incident. We don't want to make her remember the gruesome incident and the trauma that she had to go through. It is best she is not told anything about the case or the judgement," he said.
While the convicts were being taken out from the courtroom, Shah attacked some of the mediapersons, hitting one of the reporters on her face.
The journalist brought the incident to the notice of the judge and also filed a complaint with the police.
It took six years, seven judges and 57 prosecution witnesses to complete the trial in the case. The process of recording statements of the accused went on from December 5, 2018, to September 25 last year, following which the prosecution and the defence counsel completed their final arguments last December.
Shah and Kumar were arrested from Muzaffarpur and Darbhanga in Bihar on April 20 and April 22, 2013, respectively.
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.
The girl had undergone multiple surgeries at the AIIMS in Delhi.
Anger over the incident had 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.
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.