Fifteen men accused in the rape of an 11-year-old hearing-impaired girl over the course of a few months in 2018 have been found guilty by a special Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) court in Chennai. The accused were part of the housekeeping, plumbing and lift operations in a building in Chennai’s Ayanavaram area where the survivor lived with her family. One man has been acquitted by the court — Accused no 15, a gardener named Gunasekharan, while another, Accused no 10, a lift operator named Babu passes away during the trial.
The quantum of punishment and the exact charges proven against individual convicts will be announced in court on February 3.
12 of the total 17 accused were charged by the police under Section 5(g) of POCSO Act for gang penetrative sexual assault while all 17 (including the deceased) were charged with Section 6 POCSO for penetrative sexual assault. In addition to this, charges of criminal intimidation and attempt to murder were also included by the police.
The men found guilty by the court on Saturday are — Ravikumar (56), Suresh (32), Rajasekar (40), Erald Bross (58), Sugumaran (65), Abishek (23), Murugesu (54), Paramasivam (60), Palani (40), Jayaganesh (28), Deenadayalan (50), Jayaraman (26), Surya (23), Raja (30) and Umapathy (42).
In July 2018, the gruesome story of a minor who was sexually assaulted allegedly by as many as 17 men in her apartment complex in Ayanavaram, Chennai, over a six-month period of time, came to light. The men who allegedly sexually assaulted the hearing-impaired child included the elderly liftman in the apartment and many other men in their twenties who worked in various housekeeping and security roles in the apartment complex. The police also invoked the Goondas Act on them in September.
Though the charges under the Goondas Act against the accused were ultimately quashed by the Madras High Court in January 2019, their request for bail was rejected. Babu, one of the accused, died after a brief illness in February.
The trial in the case began at the Mahila court in Chennai in January last year, in which all the accused had individual lawyers representing them. Speaking about the trial, Public Prosecutor N Ramesh had told TNM that all 17 of the accused were given sufficient time to cross-examine all the witnesses in the case. “From the prosecution side, we have submitted 120 pieces of evidence and had 36 witnesses from our side. The defence side had seven witnesses on their side. In fact, the cross-examination of the police officer who investigated the case lasted for almost a month. That is how much time the defence got in the trial,” he explained.
The deposition by all the witnesses in the case runs upto 1,500 pages, he said.