A special court in Coimbatore, set up to hear POCSO cases, awarded the death penalty to 34-year-old Santosh Kumar, accused of raping and murdering a seven-year-old girl in Coimbatore in March this year. Following the release of the forensic report a day prior to the verdict which showed evidence of a second rapist, the POCSO court also ordered further investigation under Section 173 of CrPC.
The verdict in the case, delivered around 3:15 pm on Friday by Mahila Court judge Radhika, read that Santosh Kumar be hanged to death for murdering the victim. The court sentenced him to life imprisonment for charges under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Additionally, he was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment for charges under Indian Penal Code Section 201 (Causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender). The judge also ordered the convict to pay a fine of Rs 2000 for the charges against him.
(Santosh Kumar at the POCSO court in Coimbatore on Friday)
On Thursday, a day before the verdict, the victim's mother filed a petition in court demanding a reinvestigation of the case based on the observations noted in the forensic report. The results of the forensic analysis conducted on samples taken from the victim's body stated that apart from Santosh Kumar, there were DNA traces of another man in the samples, indicating that the crime might have been committed by two men and not just Santosh Kumar.
The girl went missing from her house in March this year and the child's mother filed a missing person complaint at the nearby police station on the same day. The following day, the police discovered the girlâ€™s mutilated body in an alley close to her house. An autopsy confirmed that she had been sexually assaulted before being smothered to death.
A week after the incident, the police arrested Santosh Kumar, the victimâ€™s neighbour, in connection with the crime. According to the police, the victim was playing in front of Santoshâ€™s house on the day of the incident and had fallen down while playing. Santosh, on the pretext of helping her, took her inside his house and raped her twice before smothering her to death. The death of Santoshâ€™s grandmother on the day had made it convenient for him to hide the girlâ€™s body and dispose of it in the wee hours the next day, wrapping it in his t-shirt.
Watch: TNM's Megha Kaveri reporting from Coimbatore: