Fast track court in India convicts two of assaulting minor niece


NEW DELHI: A fast-track court in India has convicted two men of raping their 10-year-old niece in a case that hit the headlines when her appeal for a late-term abortion was rejected on health grounds, a lawyer said on Wednesday.

The girl, who cannot be named, gave birth in August after the Supreme Court rejected her family’s plea that she be allowed a late-term abortion on health grounds.

India only allows abortions up to 20 weeks except in cases where the life of the mother is threatened by the pregnancy. But many child rape survivors do not realise they are pregnant until after the 20-week limit, a problem highlighted by a slew of high-profile cases in recent months.

Lawyer Manjit Singh, who represents one of the two men convicted on Tuesday, said the special court in the northern city of Chandigarh would sentence them on Thursday.

“Both the brothers have been held guilty for rape and other laws on child sexual abuse,” he said. Both men were convicted in the fast-track court, which wrapped up their trials in a month.

India’s justice system is notoriously slow, but the country set up fast-track courts to try rape cases following a national outcry over the 2012 gang rape of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi.

India has a grim record of sexual assaults on minors, with 20,000 cases of rape or sexual assaults reported in 2015, according to government data.

Almost 50 per cent of the abusers are known to the victims. The victim in the latest case gave birth in August, a month after her pregnancy was discovered when she went to the hospital with a stomach ache.

By then she was 30 weeks pregnant — beyond the legal limit for an abortion — forcing her parents to approach the courts for permission. The Supreme Court rejected the plea when a panel of doctors advised that undergoing an abortion at her stage of pregnancy could endanger her life. Her baby was later delivered via caesarian section and given to child welfare authorities for adoption.