A special court dealing with sexual crimes against children has sentenced two men to life in prison for gang raping and murdering two Dalit sisters in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh about a year ago.
The POCSO, Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses court, also sentenced two other men found guilty of destroying evidence of the crime, to six years in prison.
After the bodies of the two siblings, 15 and 17, were found hanging from a tree in the Lakhimpur district of U.P. on September 14, the crimes were widely reported across global media and triggered widespread outrage.
The police swung into action as soon as the bodies were found and arrested six people, including two minor boys. Post-mortem reports confirmed the girls were raped and strangled to death.
Last week the POSCO court convicted two of the four men of abducting, gangraping and murdering the two girls. Two other men, who helped the main accused to hang the bodies of the victims from the tree, were found guilty by the court of “causing disappearance of evidence,” while the verdict for the two minors — ages 16 and 17 at the time of the crime — are pending in a juvenile court.
On Monday (August 14), Rahul Singh, a judge in the POCSO court, observed that the crime was from the “rarest of the rare” category and said the life sentences of the two convicts would “run until their last breath.” The two men, identified by their first names, Junaid and Sunil, have been ordered to pay a fine of $553 each.
After the crime was committed last year, the family of the two sisters alleged that the girls had been abducted from their village hours before they were found murdered.
The police report filed last year, however, said the girls were in a relationship with two of the six charged and they left their village voluntarily with some of the accused on their motorcycles. The girls were then taken to a sugarcane field where they were raped, before being strangled to death.
According to the police, after they were raped, the girls insisted the two men marry them. The men refused and a heated argument ensued, concluding with the sisters being strangled to death. The men hung their bodies from a tree using one of their dupattas [scarves] to make the case look like a joint suicide, the police report added.
The family of the two murdered sisters was given compensation of $30,034 and a house by the U.P. government, which also promised “exemplary punishment” for the perpetrators in the case.
When the police began the investigation into the case, the family of the victims said they would not be satisfied unless the culprits were given capital punishment.
“They strangled my daughters to death. I want them to be hanged and die by strangling,” the father of the two girls said last year.
After Monday’s verdict, the father of the two sisters said he was satisfied with the court judgment.
“I would have been happier if the court handed out death sentences to all of them,” the father said.