Bhubaneswar, March 14: A court in Odisha Friday sentenced the main accused in the 2008 gang rape of a catholic nun to 11 years in prison and two others to 26 months, a lawyer said.
District and Sessions Judge Gyanaranjan Purohit at Cuttack, 26 km from here, held Mitu Patnaik, Gajendra Digal and Saroj Badhai guilty, the nun’s counsel Manas Ranjan Singh told IANS.
The judge sentenced Patnaik, the prime accused, to 11 years in jail and imposed a fine of Rs.10,000 on him. In default, he will have to spend two more years in jail, Singh said.
The court also sentenced the other two accused, Gajendra Digal and Saroj Badhai, to 26 months in jail for outraging the modesty of the victim, he said.
The 29-year-old nun was attacked by a mob and raped in Nuagaon village of the Kandhamal district Aug 24, 2008, when communal violence in the region was at its peak.
The district, about 200 km from here, witnessed widespread violence after the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram. Police had blamed Maoists for the killings.
At least 38 people were killed in the state and thousands of Christians were forced to flee their homes.
The gang-rape sparked an international outcry and drew strong condemnation.
The Crime Branch of the state police, which probed the case, arrested about two dozen people and filed four chargesheets.
In the first phase, the court tried nine accused and completed its hearing March 4 and kept its verdict reserved.
The court Friday acquitted the remaining six due to lack of evidence.
President of the Global Council of Indian Christians Sajan K. George termed it a “light verdict” and said he was shocked that six of the accused were acquitted by the court.
“The incident had shaken up the conscience of the entire nation. The whole incident was published in almost all the newspapers in the country with very clear details,” he said in a statement.
“It is a case of blatant failure on part of the state agencies which have failed to extend much-needed institutional support to victims and also their subjugation to the non-state actors,” he said.