New Delhi: Observing that judges must not hesitate to "use the sword of justice with utmost severity" if the offences are grave in nature, a Delhi court dealing exclusively with sexual offences against women has sentenced to life a 68-year-old man for raping his step-daughter consistently over eight years and forcing her to give birth to two children.
Additional Sessions Judge Devendra Kumar Sharma last week awarded life imprisonment to taxi driver Hari Singh Rawat for raping his step-daughter, while she was still a minor, over eight years. The court termed the offence as "rarest of the rare".
Judge Sharma convicted Rawat under Section 376(2)(f) (rape on a woman when she is minor), Section 376(2)(n) (committing rape repeatedly on the same woman) and Section 506 (criminal intimidation), and slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 on him.
The court said that 50 per cent of the fine will be given to the victim as compensation. It also directed Delhi State Legal Services Authority to provide monetary assistance to the victim as she has to take care of two children, while noting that any amount of compensation would not be sufficient to alleviate her agony.
Observing that "rape has been held to be more serious and heinous than murder" which not only destroys the woman physically but also shatters her inner self by destroying her each living moment emotionally and psychologically", the court said cases like that of Rawat "must set an example in the society that once there is conviction there is no undue sympathy while awarding the sentence upon the convict".
"In the present case, the convict has not only caused permanent stigma and betrayal on civil society but the hapless prosecutrix (victim) has to give birth to two female children whose future has become uncertain as the prosecutrix is not an earning member of the family," the court said.
"...and therefore, I am tempted to quote that Judges who bear the sword of justice should not hesitate to use it with the utmost severity to the full end if the gravity of the offences so demand."
The order came after the victim herself pleaded for maximum punishment for her step-father as he had "ruined her entire life" and she had no means to survive along with her children.
The victim was present when the court delivered the sentence last week.
The court opined that "when the perpetrator of the crime is the father against his own daughter, it is more grave and the 'rarest of rare', which warrants a strong deterrent judicial hand".
The court observed that "father is a fortress, refuge and the trustee of his daughter" and "by betraying the trust and taking undue advantage of trust reposed in him by the daughter, the convict has ravished the chastity of his daughter, jeopardised her future prospect of getting married, enjoying marital and conjugal life and thrown her out totally devastated".
A case was lodged against Rawat in Vasant Vihar in south Delhi on June 23, last year.
The victim told the court that her mother met Rawat in 1995 in Dehradun. Thereafter, Rawat married the victim's mother and shifted to Shankar Vihar in south Delhi.
The court also took account of the debate and proposals coming forth that death penalty should be an answer to deal with accused involved in such heinous crimes.
Public Prosecutor Sanjay Kumar demanded maximum punishment for the convict contending that he forcibly raped his step daughter after consuming liquor and later forced her to vacate the house threatening her not to disclose the incident.
Ravi Qazi, defence counsel for the convict, sought leniency citing his old age.