Less than two months after horrifying news broke of the alleged rape of a 11-year-old child in Chennai, the Tamil Nadu police have filed a chargesheet against all 17 accused in the case.
The chargesheet, filed before the Mahila Court in Chennai on Wednesday, reportedly invokes the death penalty for the accused.
According to one report in the Deccan Chronicle, the police have arraigned the accused under the new Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2018.
According to the Act, â€śWhoever, commits rape on a woman under twelve years of age shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than twenty years, but which may extend to imprisonment for life, which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of that person's natural life, and with fine or with death..â€ť
The newspaper also reports the Special Public Prosecutor in the case, N Ramesh, as saying that since the crime took place in the months April, May, June and July, the accused were liable to be punished under the Act which came into force in April this year.
Just last week, the Chennai City Police Commissioner, AK Vishwanath confirmed to TNM that the men, who have thus far been booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences(POCSO) Act, have also been charged under the Goondas Act.
In 2011, the Madras High Court held that a single case was enough to detain a person under the Goondas Act. The Act defines a goonda as â€śa member of or leader of a gang, habitually commits, or attempts to commit or abets the commission of offences.â€ť Under the Act, a person may be detained without bail for a period that may extend up to one year.
The men have already been booked under Sections 6 (punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault), 10 (punishment for aggravated sexual assault) and 12 (punishment for sexual harassment upon a child) of the POCSO Act as well as Sections 307 (attempt to murder) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code.
On July 17, news came to light that Priya*, a 11-year-old child residing with her parents at an apartment complex in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, was allegedly sexually assaulted, raped and threatened by service staff in the building over a period of seven months.
The service staff in the apartment- security guards, plumbers, water delivery men and gardeners- were all reportedly employees of FOCUS and UK Facility Services, a private security firm in the city.
On July 27, a Mahila Court in the city granted the police department custody of the 17 men for a period of five days to conduct an interrogation.
Investigating officers had earlier told TNM that they had a watertight case against the 17 accused.
According to a complaint by the parents, the girl was being raped and sexually assaulted for over six months and was too traumatised to tell her parents. It was only in June, when the survivor's sister came home for a holiday, that the child confided in her.