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Rape accused convicted, gets life term within 25 days in Darjeeling

Darjeeling :  In one of the fastest trials ever witnessed in the hills, a court in Darjeeling  sentenced an accused to rigorous life imprisonment along with a fine just within 25 days of charges being framed. The additional session’s third court judge, Santanu Mishra, read out the sentence after finding accused Sunil Rai (35) guilty of raping a minor girl on April 18, 2014. Another accused named Prabal Pradhan, found guilty under section 212 for harbouring Rai after the crime, was also sentenced to a year’s rigorous imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 1,000 failing which he will have to undergo another three months RI. After the sentence was announced, public prosecutor Pranay Rai said, “The main accused was found guilty of committing rape on a minor girl on that fateful day. He was booked under section 376 (2) (1) of the IPC and section 6 of the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 and sentenced to RI along with a fine of Rs50,000.” 

According to the PP, the main accused is a resident of Guffur Busty in the Teesta area under Kalimpong sub-division, and he had lured the minor on April 18 on the pretext of buying her candy and committed the heinous crime in a secluded area. “The victim’s mother raised an alarm when she could not find her child who had been playing in the vicinity. It was then a restaurant owner and his wife informed the mother they had spotted Rai with the child,” the PP said. He added, “Upon hearing this, village residents rushed to the secluded area where the culprit had supposedly taken the victim. Some of them saw Rai fleeing to an area that had a cluster of houses, while the child was discovered in a semi conscious state.” Further, the public prosecutor said the police raided Pradhan’s house on the same day and arrested him and another person named Sambhu Subba as they had been last seen talking to the convict. Although Subba managed to escape, he was arrested the next day in a hotel in Kalimpong. The police filed a charge-sheet against the trio on June 9 and the case was transferred to the additional session’s third court in Darjeeling sub-division on July 16. 

Charges were established and framed on August 14. “The additional session’s third court has the power to deal with POCSO cases. In all, we questioned 17 witnesses and Judge Mishra finally delivered his verdict today,” informed the PP. The public prosecutor said the victim is entitled to receive compensation from the state government and the District Legal Service Authority (DLSA) and this amounts to 80 per cent of the fine on the culprits. “We will facilitate the process of applying for compensation on behalf of the victim. However, it is unfortunate that Darjeeling does not have a fast-track court to deal with such atrocious crimes. We hope such a court will soon be established here for everyone’s benefit,” said the PP. The victim’s father expressed gratitude towards the court for handing out justice promptly. “I am really happy the court announced its verdict against the accused in such a short time. I am grateful to the public prosecutor for getting us justice and also hope we are compensated as has been assured,” he added.

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