The special POCSO court in Dungarpur district sentenced a rape and murder accused to death. The accused, Jitendra (alias Jitu), a resident of Dungarpur was arrested for the rape and murder of a 10 year old girl on 29 June this year.
The sentence was announced by Justice Sanjay Kumar Bhatnagar of the Special POCSO (Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences) Court in Dungarpur district. The court also slapped a fine of Rs. 5 Lakh on the accused.
Public Prosecutor Yogesh Kumar Joshi said that the mother of the deceased had lodged a complaint at the Sadar Police Station. In her report, she had mentioned that her 10 year old daughter was sleeping in the courtyard of her home, with her parents on 29 June. On waking up, the parents could not see the girl and she was not found in the house as well. He body was recovered from underneath a bridge close by. Once the police began the investigation, they rounded up CCTV camera footage from around the area and narrowed in on Jitendra. He was detained and interrogated, but he denied his involvement in the matter. The police resorted to forensic and DNA testing and it was confirmed that the girl was assaulted by Jitendra. The accused then confessed to his crime and said that he kidnapped the girl from her home, raped her and choked her to death. The convicted Jitendra is the grandson of the ex-Sarpanch.
The police presented the Challan within 20 days of the arrest of the accused and the fast track special POCSO court announced the sentence within 70 days of the Challan being presented.
This is not the first time that such sentence has been awarded under POCSO in Rajasthan. In April 2022, the POCSO Court sentenced two offenders to death, for the rape and murder of a tribal girl in a village in Bundi district that falls under Kota division. The incident, which happened in December 2021, took 12 hours for the police to crack open. The forest area was cordoned off and the perpetrators, of which even a minor was part, could not escape.
This was the first case under the POCSO Act in Rajasthan, in which two convicts were simultaneously sentenced to death. Judge Bal Krishan Mishra of the POCSO court handed capital punishment to Sultan Bheel, 27 and Chotulal Bheel, 62 after recording the testimony of 22 witnesses.
The first case under POCSO in Rajasthan, when the convict was sentenced to death, was in Rajsamand district of Udaipur division. The District and Sessions Judge pronounced the death sentence to Manoj Singh in less than seven months of trial at Rajsamand district headquarters. This was the first ruling under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences, 2012 (POCSO) Act in the country and various sections of IPC including 363, 365, 302, 376 (2) (8) for abduction, rape and murder against the convict.
The 2012 POCSO Act provided safeguards for children against sexual abuse. In 2019 through an amendment, more stringent punishments including death penalty was introduced in the Act to deter perpetrators and prevent such crimes against children. The death penalty was approved as maximum punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual offences against children under the age of 16. The call for strict action happened after the gruesome Kathua gang rape and murder, which forced the government to crack down heavily on such cases. Experts though, have varying opinions on the introduction of death penalty for those convicted under such crimes.
In 2020 the Ministry of Women & Child Development notified new POCSO Rules that supersede the 2012 rules. Among these rules, it is mentioned that the central government and each state government shall introduce age-appropriate educational material in the school curriculums, informing them of various aspects of personal safety. Additionally, suitable material and information may be disseminated by the respective Governments in all public places such as panchayat bhavans, community centers, schools and colleges, bus terminals, railway stations, places of congregation, airports, taxi stands, cinema halls and such other prominent places and also be disseminated in suitable form in virtual spaces such as internet and social media.
In May 2021, the Department of Justice, under a centrally sponsored scheme, had set up 1023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs), which included 389 exclusive POCSO Courts. Since then, there has been a tremendous increase in the conviction rates.