India: Former BJP legislator Sengar convicted in Unnao rape case

Delhi court finds Kuldeep Singh Sengar guilty of raping a teenager in 2017 in a case that fuelled public anger.

    Sengar's sentencing is expected on December 19 [Pawan Kumar/Reuters]
    Sengar's sentencing is expected on December 19 [Pawan Kumar/Reuters]

    A court in India has found a former state legislator from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) guilty of raping a teenager, the politician's lawyer has said, in a high-profile case that fuelled public anger over sexual violence against women.

    Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who was a legislator in India's most populous northern state of Uttar Pradesh, was convicted by a court in New Delhi under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, lawyer Tanveer Ahmed Mir said. Sengar had pleaded not guilty.

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    Sentencing in the case is expected later this week, according to local media reports.

    The case was thrust into the spotlight last year when the accuser, who was a teenager in 2017 when she was raped, tried to kill herself, accusing the police of inaction.

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    In July, a truck crashed into the car of the survivor, killing two of  her aunts and wounding her critically. One of the aunts killed in the crash was a witness in the rape case against Sengar.

    Since then, the victim's family has been provided with security, while India's top court moved the rape trial to New Delhi to allay fears Sengar could influence the outcome.

    Having faced criticism for failing to act swiftly against the politician, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP expelled him from the party in August.

    90 rapes reported every day

    Public anger has been mounting in India over sexual violence against women and the lack of speedy justice for the majority of victims.

    Earlier this month, a rape survivor from Unnao town was set on fire by her alleged attackers while she was on her way to testify in the gang-rape case in a local court.

    The attack took place days after the brutal rape and murder of a veterinarian in Hyderabad city in southern India.

    More than 33,000 rape cases were raped - on average about 90 rapes every day - in India in 2017, according to official figures released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

    But the real figure is believed to be far higher as many women do not report cases to the police due to fear or shame.

    Uttar Pradesh is notorious for its poor record regarding crimes against women, with more than 4,200 cases of rape reported there in 2017 - the highest in the country.

    The NCRB data also shows that more than 90 percent of cases of crimes against women were pending in courts across the country.

    SOURCE: News agencies