A Delhi court on Wednesday (July 22) sentenced Sonu Punjaban to 24 years imprisonment for “immorally trafficking” a 12-year old girl for prostitution, saying a person who does such “horrific and terrible acts has no right to live in a civilized society”.
Additional Sessions Judge Pritam Singh sentenced Geeta Arora alias Sonu Punjaban to 14 years jail time for offences under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act and 10 years for other offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including buying and selling of a minor girl for prostitution and criminal conspiracy, which will run separately.
The convict Sonu Punjaban shall first undergo 14 years rigorous imprisonment for offences under sections of Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, and 10 more years of rigorous imprisonment for offences under Sections 366A (procuration of minor girl), 372 (selling minor for purpose of prostitution), 373 (buying minor for purpose of prostitution), 328 (causing hurt by means of poison), 342 (wrongful confinement), and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.
Hence, the convict shall remain in custody for a total of 24 years as substantive sentence, the court said. The court also sentenced co-accused Sandeep Bedwal (41) to 20 years rigorous imprisonment for kidnapping, raping and selling the minor girl for prostitution.
It added that Bedwal shall undergo 10 years rigorous imprisonment for offence under Sections 363 (kidnapping), 366 (kidnapping, abducting or inducing woman to compel her marriage), 366A, 372, 120B of IPC and thereafter, he will undergo 10 years rigorous imprisonment for commission of offence under Section 376 (rape) of the IPC.
Hence, the convict Sandeep Bedwal shall remain in custody (jail) for a total period of 20 years as substantive sentence, the court said.
The court further imposed fines of ₹64,000 and ₹65,000 on Punjaban and Bedwal, respectively.
It also directed the Delhi Legal Services Authority to pay a compensation of ₹7 lakh to the girl.
The court had already granted an interim relief of ₹2 lakh on June 4, 2019, saying, “The victim was deprived of the company of her parents, siblings and friends that a child requires most in her childhood,” according to The Indian Express.
“It is well known that the victim of sexual offences not only faces mental and physical trauma but is also subjected to social stigma, and in most cases, they have to change their residence, which also causes financial losses to the victim or her family,” it said in its order.
The court said children were the future of a country and the future of a country depended on how it treated its children. “In India, thousands of children are kidnapped every year. Very few of them are recovered. Minor girls are kidnapped on the pretext of marriage to be sold in the flesh trade industry where they are sexually exploited on a daily basis.
“The subject case was also one of those cases where a minor innocent girl was trapped in the name of love and kidnapped in a pre-planned manner to force her into flesh trade,” the court said.
The court also noted that the girl had been sexually exploited for three-four years at the hands of several offenders, and if Sandeep had not kidnapped her, “perhaps the ordeal would not have happened”.
It further said Punjaban had not only purchased the victim for prostitution after this, but also brutalised her to make her surrender to her demands and had forcibly administered drugs to her.
“The modesty of a woman is next to her soul. How a woman can outrage and brutalise the modesty of another woman, who is a minor, in such a horrific way? The shameful deeds of convict Punjaban deprived her of any leniency from the courts.
“A person, irrespective of gender, who does such horrific and terrible acts, has no right to live in civilized society and for her the best place to live is the four boundaries of the jail. Punjaban crossed all the limits to be called a woman and deserved the severest punishment provided under the law,” the court noted.
During the trial, Punjaban and Bedwal had claimed they were falsely implicated in the case.
Furthermore, R M Tufail, Punjaban’s lawyer, urged the court to grant her leniency, pointing out that her husband had been murdered and that there was no one to look after her minor son, her 60-year-old mother, and her HIV-positive brother.
The court had on July 16 convicted Punjaban for the offences under IPC Sections 366A, 372, 373, 328, 370, 342, 120B, and relevant sections of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act. It had also convicted Bedwal under Sections 363, 366, 366A, 372, 120B, 376 and 370 (buying or disposing of any person as a slave) of the IPC.
Punjaban has already been in custody for over two years.
According to the prosecution, Bedwal had kidnapped the minor girl in 2009 on the pretext of marriage and raped her. He sold her to a woman after that, who forced the victim for prostitution and even gave drugs to her, the complaint said.
It further said that the girl was then sold several times to different people for the purpose of prostitution. Finally, in 2014, she managed to escape from the house of a man who had bought her and married her.
She went to a police station and on her statement, an FIR was registered.
(With inputs from agencies)