A court in Odisha today sentenced three men for the rape of a Catholic nun in 2008, at a time when anti-Christian riots ravaged the eastern Indian state.
Justice Gyanendra Purohit of Cuttack district court convicted Mitu Patnaik of the rape and sentenced him to 11 years in prison and a 10,000 rupee (US$164) fine. Patnaik could receive an additional six months’ sentence for failure to pay the fine.
Two other men – Gajendra Digal and Saroj Badhai – were convicted of outraging the modesty of a woman and abetting in the rape and were sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
Six others accused in the case were acquitted for lack of evidence, Fr Dibakar Parichha, the victim’s counsel, told ucanews.com today.
A 10th suspect in the case remains at large.
The attack on the nun occurred in tribal-dominated Kandhamal district during anti-Christian riots that left 100 dead and as many as 50,000 displaced.
During a seven-week period of violence, which followed the assassination of Hindu leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati on August 23, 2008, Hindu mobs burned homes, churches and convents in the district.
The case was transferred to Cuttack district from Kandhamal in 2010 after the victim expressed fears that she would not receive a fair trial in the district in which she was attacked and that she feared for her life.
Fr Parichha said the nun was not present during the conviction or sentencing hearings today.
“I called her and told her about the conviction. She was happy,” he said.
He added, however, that he was not fully satisfied with the verdict because only one person had received a severe sentence though all were involved in committing the crime.
Parichha said he would file a review petition in the High Court to review the acquittal of the six suspects and what he said he considered light sentencing for Patnaik and his two accomplices.
India: The subtle persecution of the community has now become blatant.