HC upholds 7-yr term to priest for raping girl

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has upheld the seven-year jail term to a priest for raping a 16-year-old girl repeatedly in a temple here, ruing that the "dehumanising act" has been committed by a "trustworthy and respected" person of the society.

"The heinous offence was committed by a priest who is respected in the society and considered to be a trustworthy person. But disregarding morality and consequence of his act, he committed such a barbaric offence upon a young girl repeatedly.

"In my considered opinion, the prosecution has brought home the guilt of the appellant beyond reasonable doubt," Justice M L Mehta said and dismissed the plea of the convict.

Justice Mehta upheld the lower court`s conviction and award of seven years rigorous imprisonment to Prem Dass, a priest with Lord Shiva temple in North West Delhi here who repeatedly raped the school-going girl inside the temple.

Dass had filed the appeal against the 2010 trial court verdict, saying there were discrepancies and inconsistencies in the statements of the prosecutrix and hence, his conviction was "bad in law".

"Sexual violence, apart from being a dehumanising act, is an unlawful intrusion on the right of privacy and sanctity of a female," the court said, dismissing Dass` appeal.

"It is a serious blow to her supreme honour and offends her self-esteem and dignity – it degrades and humiliates the victim and where the victim is a helpless innocent child or a minor, it leaves behind a traumatic experience," it added.

The girl had lodged a complaint with police on July 23, 2007, that she was first raped by the priest inside the temple in May 2004 after she fell ill there and he ravished her several times after blackmailing her.

The prosecution told the court that the priest threatened her not to disclose the fact of her rape by him to anyone, otherwise she would be defamed as nobody would believe her as he was the priest of the temple.

The prosecution also said that Dass continued to rape her for about two years as she was scared to disclose this fact to her family.

"Even after girl`s parents stopped her from going outside, the priest used to stop her on the way to school and force himself upon her and this all made her to disclose these facts to her parents," the prosecution said.

Upholding the sentence, the court said "a rapist does not only causes physical injuries, but more indelibly leaves a scar on the most cherished possession of a woman i.e. her dignity, honour, reputation and not the least her chastity."

"Rape is not only a crime against the person of a woman, it is a crime against the entire society. It destroys the entire psychology of a woman and pushes her into deep emotional crisis," the court said.