Chennai: The 17 men arrested in July for alleged gang rape of a 11-year-old hearing impaired-girl in an apartment in Chennai could even face death sentences as the police have arraigned them under the new ‘Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2018, which increased the maximum punishment for rape from life imprisonment to death. This is the first time that the prosecution in Tamil Nadu has included this amendment to ask the maximum punishment for the guilty in this horrid rape case that sent shock waves through the city.
On Wednesday, Special Public Prosecutor N Ramesh filed the charge sheet before the special court for cases under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The court will take up the matter for hearing shortly. After filing the charge sheet, Ramesh recounted that the 17 men were allegedly involved in the repeated rape of an 11-year-old girl in an apartment complex at Ayanavaram over a period of seven months. The incident came to light on July 13, when the victim, a Class VII student, informed her elder sister that she was suffering from stomach pain. She told her sister that she was raped, sometimes even gang-raped, by the men working in the apartment they lived in. Subsequently, the sister informed the parents who lodged a complaint with the police.
The Ayanavaram All Women police went on to arrest 17 people, including the building’s security guard and water supplier, between the ages of 25 and 66. The girl was allegedly sedated by giving spiked soft drinks and was also blackmailed.
In the charge sheet filed before the special court, the prosecution registered case against them under sections 354-B, 366, 376-AB, 376-DB, 506 (i) and 506(ii) of IPC and section 5 and 6 of POCSO Act. Among others the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018, which came into force from April 21, had inserted two new sections – 376-AB and 376 DB, to provide maximum penalty of death sentence to the convicts of rape of minor girls below 12-years.
In April this year the Centre had approved an ordinance ‘Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2018’ to amend the POCSO Act to provide death penalty for the rape of children below the age of 12 following public outrage over the Kathua rape-and-murder case, where the victim was 8-year old minor girl, in Jammu and Khasmir in January this year. Subsequently, the Centre enacted The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018 in August. The Act came into force from April 21.
The Section 376 AB of IPC (punishment for rape on woman under twelve years of age), which was inserted by Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2018, enables whoever commits rape on woman under 12-years of age shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years, but which may extend to imprisonment for life, which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of the person’s natural life and with a fine or with death.
Section 376 DB of IPC (punishment for gang rape on woman under twelve years of age). The section enables where a woman under twelve years of age is raped by one or more persons constituting a group or acting in furtherance of a common intention, each of those persons shall be deemed to have committed the offence of rape and shall be punished with imprisonment for life, which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life, and with fine, or with death.
Ramesh said since the incident took place in April, May, June and July, they could be punished under the amended Act.