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23 years later: Two men convicted for raping minor girl

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New Delhi, Jan 02: Over two decades after the incident, two men have been convicted for raping a minor girl and abetting the crime respectively by the Delhi High Court, which said the medical evidence corroborated the victim's testimony.

The high court set aside the trial court judgment that had acquitted the two men of the charges, saying the acquittal suffered from the vice of perversity, resulting in a grave miscarriage of justice. It said the 13-year-old girl, in her testimony before the trial court, had given a vivid and indubitable recount of what she was subjected to by the accused at the time of the incident in March, 1997.

23 years later: Two men convicted for raping minor girl

"Having regard to the totality of the circumstances, appearing on the record of the case, we are constrained to observe that the trial court ignored the cardinal tenets of appreciation of evidence, including the weight to be attached to the testimony of the minor victim, since the accused had evidently been identified immediately and arrested contemporaneously," a bench of justices Siddharth Mridul and IS Mehta said in the verdict passed recently.

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It said the trial court also failed to consider the circumstance that no dispute was raised at the relevant stage regarding the identity of the two men, nor was it brought to the notice of the higher authorities of the police or the lower court at the relevant point in time.

The bench said the medical evidence corroborated the clear and unequivocal testimony of the minor victim, who had also identified the two men as the offenders before the trial court. The high court allowed the appeal of the prosecution challenging the acquittal of the two men and directed that convicts Surender Kumar and Ravinder be taken into custody forthwith.

While Surender was convicted for the offences of rape and criminal intimidation, Ravinder was held guilty of abetment to rape. The court will pass the order on the quantum of sentence next week.

According to the prosecution, the incident took place on March 27, 1997, when the victim and her younger brother had gone out to ease themselves, and while Ravinder caught hold of the minor boy, Surender forcibly picked up the girl and took her to a nearby vacant spot. It said the girl raised an alarm, but Surender gagged her mouth and raped her and also threatened her with dire consequences if she narrated her ordeal to anyone. He left the girl there and fled, the prosecution said, adding that after some time, the girl's father came there searching for her and she told him about the incident.

The girl's father informed the police and an FIR for the offences of kidnapping, raping and criminal intimidation was registered under the relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) at the Alipur police station here. During the trial, the two men claimed that they were falsely implicated in the case by the complainant with the motive to extract money. However, they both opted not to lead any evidence in their defence.

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Setting aside the acquittal of the two men, the high court said the trial court misdirected and misapplied itself in extrapolating the minor contradictions and insignificant discrepancies in the deposition of the minor victim and her parents to arrive at the conclusion that the prosecution had failed to establish its case against the accused persons.

"The impugned judgment (of the trial court) is thus, a total negation in the quest for search of truth and overlooks the cardinal principle that the duty of a judge presiding over a criminal trial is not merely to see that no innocent person is punished but also to see that the guilty person does not escape and that both the public duties are equally important," it said.

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