Lucknow: Former Uttar Pradesh minister Gayatri Prajapati and two others were sentenced to life imprisonment by a special court here on Friday for gang-raping a woman and her minor daughter.
The special court for lawmakers headed by Additional Sessions Judge PK Rai also imposed a fine of Rs 2 lakh on each convict.
Prajapati and two other convicts Ashok Tiwari and Ashish Shukla were present in the court when it pronounced the quantum of sentence against them.
Judge Rai had on Wednesday held Prajapati, a key figure in the previous Akhilesh Yadav government, and his accomplices guilty of gang-raping the woman and her minor daughter.
It had said the prosecution has been able to prove charges against them beyond a reasonable doubt.
The court had found all the three guilty of committing gang-rape under section 376 (D) of the IPC and making “gang penetrative sexual assault on a child” under section 5 (g) read with section 6 of the POSCO Act.
Section 6 of the POCSO Act provides for the punishment for gang-raping a minor girl. The punishment ranges from at least a 10-year jail term to life imprisonment.
Prajapati held transport and mining portfolios in the Akhilesh Yadav cabinet and was arrested in March 2017. He had been in jail since then.
During the hearing on Friday on the quantum of sentence, the counsel for Prajapati and others earlier pleaded before the court for leniency in awarding the sentence.
But the prosecution counsel opposed it vehemently, arguing that Prajapati was a minister in the government when he committed the offence along with his accomplices and “if a man on such a responsible post commits this kind of offence, misusing his power and position, the court should deal with him sternly to give a message to the society”.
The three convicts now have the option of challenging their conviction and sentence in the high court.
While convicting the trio on Wednesday, Judge Rai had acquitted four others — Vikas Verma, Roopeshwar, Amrendra Singh, alias Pintu, and Chandrapal — due to lack of evidence.
The prosecution had produced 17 witnesses in the case.
While holding the trio, the court had also directed the Lucknow police commissioner to ascertain the circumstances in which the rape victim and two other witnesses had changed their statements time and again during the trial.
While deposing before the court, the victim had initially supported her allegation of gang-rape in the FIR, but during her cross-examination, she had retracted from it.
The court, however, relied on her initial deposition while convicting the trio.
The FIR against the minister was registered at the Gautampalli police station here on Feb 18, 2017, on the directions of the Supreme Court, which had given its order on the woman’s plea against the police inaction over her complaint.
The woman had claimed that the minister and his accomplices have been raping her since October 2014 and she decided to complain against them after they targetted her minor daughter as well in July 2016.