“The savage nature of the crime has shocked my judicial conscience”, observed a Kerala Court, this month, convicting a temple priest for raping his step daughter for over a year and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Special Judge Saleena VG Nair expressed her grief over the incident and noted:
“The sordid episode of the convict stepfather, whose sacred duty was to ensure the protection and welfare of his own daughter like victim, subjected her to gratify his lust in a most cruel and barbaric manner, makes the crime of rape proved even more heinous. Keeping in view the poor and pathetic family background of the victim, it is obvious that a most heinous and perverted type of barbaric act of rape was committed on a helpless and defenceless school going girl of 13 years old by her guardian.
If the guardians of wards behave in this manner, who will guard the wards? The faith of the society by such a barbaric act of the stepfather gets totally shaken and its cry for justice becomes loud and clear. The sexual offence committed was not only inhuman and barbaric, but it was a totally ruthless crime of rape and an affront to the human dignity of the society.”
The court observed in the judgment, that the accused step father used to rape and harass her and when the child tried to stop him and tell him that she would tell her mother, he used to threaten her that her mother would also go to the jail. “He told her that it is a practice for performance after her marriage”, recorded the facts.
The prosecution furnished that once the minor complained to her mother, the mother asked her not to worry “and that he is her father and hence not to reveal it to anyone”. The matter finally came to light when the survivor, along with her aunt and a relative lodged an FIR, revealing the sexual abuse inflicted on her by the temple priest.
With respect to the mother’s culpability, the court noted that it was not entirely her fault as her husband died unexpectedly, leaving behind her family consisting of four girl children and the youngest of the children, the survivor, was just two and a half years at the time of his death.
Justice Nair said, “She had no other option but to entrust the children to care homes and she herself started working in one of the care homes. In these circumstances, the accused, who was working in the institution wherein she had joined, started intimacy with her, which resulted in their marriage. Her family accepted him, trusted him and her father accepted him as his student and taught him vedas and rituals and even conducted his upanayana.”
However, the court said that she did fail in her legal duty to inform the police about the sexual acts. “She might have her own excuses for not doing so. Anyhow, in my considered opinion, the mitigating circumstances in her case outweigh the aggravating circumstances, and hence she deserves leniency in the matter of punishment. So, awarding punishment limiting the sentence to the period already undergone by her appears to be sufficient to meet the ends of Justice,” held the court.
Accordingly, the accused priest was sentenced to imprisonment for the remainder of his natural life and fine of rupees twenty thousand.
The judgment may be read here: