Today, as Kuldeep Singh Sengar and six others, including his brother Atul were pronounced guilty of causing the death of the Unnao rape survivor’s father in 2018, Sengar's daughter Aishwarya, speaking exclusively to THE WEEK, said, “There was already so much prejudice due to the media trial, somewhere the trial court has failed to appreciate the evidence on record”.
Four others, also charged in the case, were acquitted by the Tiz Hazari Court.
Sengar has been held guilty under sections including 304, 120 (b), 201, 148 and 149 of the Indian Penal Code. His crimes thus include conspiracy and shielding of the culprits. It is noteworthy that Sengar was not present in the village of Makhi on the date on which the survivor’s father Surendra Singh alias Pappu was supposedly beaten so mercilessly that he died in jail a few days later.
One crucial bit of evidence that Aishwarya points to is a report by an AIIMS Board dated June 14, 2018, that states: “Thus, considering the above facts the Medical Board opines that the deceased was in fit condition to be discharged on April 4, 2018”. The post-mortem report of the deceased was vetted by an AIIMS Medical Board after the intense media attention that the case drew. Based on that vetting, the defence had argued, “…it is evident that on April 4, 2018, the deceased was in a fit condition even after a day of the assault. Hence…cannot be held liable for the death of the deceased on April 9, 2018, which could be due to other unknown reasons, i.e. injuries during Judicial Custody and to overrule this possibility no inquest was conducted by the investigating agency.”
Ajendra Awasthi, an Unnao-based lawyer who has argued the case since its inception said, “Kuldeep has been found guilty of abetment and conspiracy of a brutal murder. Though he was not present during the initial beating, he visited the higher authorities to shield the accused. The call detail records and the sequence of events that we were able to establish have led to this praiseworthy judgement”.
The maximum punishment for the sections under which Sengar has been charged is 10 years in jail.
Among the four who have been acquitted is a police constable, while those who have been found guilty include two policemen—a Station House Officer (SHO) and a sub-inspector. Sources have confirmed to THE WEEK that besides the policeman who was acquitted, the plaintiff's side withdrew charges against three others during the arguments.
Sengar has already been punished with imprisonment for the “remainder of his biological life” and a fine of Rs 25 lakh for raping the survivor, then a minor, in 2017.
The father of the survivor died in jail in April 2018, apparently as the result of excessive bleeding due to injuries caused by beating by Atul and his accomplices. Kuldeep, then a BJP MLA from Bangarmau constituency in Unnao, though not present during the incident was accused of having used his influence and of making several phone calls to the local police to ensure that Pappu was denied medical help while being held.
In an exclusive interview given earlier to THE WEEK, Kuldeep’s wife Sangeeta Singh, chairperson of the Unnao Zila Panchayat, had said that the phone calls were in fact made to ensure that Pappu’s well-being was taken care of and that the police perform their duties.
In her evidence recorded before the CBI Special Court on April 16, 2018 (a copy of which is available with THE WEEK) the survivor had described the series of events that she said took place in the aftermath of her giving a letter to the state’s chief minister asking for help on August 17, 2017.
“My father went to Delhi with my uncle [his younger brother Mahesh]. He did not come to the village out of fear. One month later, my grandmother’s [father’s mother] medicines finished. My father, with a worker called Kishore [from Mahesh’s factory] came [to Makhi] to give her medicines on April 3, 2018. Kuldeep Singh Sengar’s brother Atul Singh, Arun Singh, Bauwa, Shailu, Vineet, Sonu and Vinod came to my father. People from the village called my Uncle [Mahesh] and told him that my father was hit with rifle butts. They dragged my father to Kuldeep Singh’s house, tied him to a neem tree and sloshed him with water while beating him. The police stood there. A false case was registered against my father and he was sent to the police lock-up the same day….I came to Lucknow on April 5. On April 4, I had come to know that my father was dead. I did not tell anyone. My family met me at the railway station. We asked for directions to the chief minister’s house. There I tried to kill myself. My father was killed because I had lodged a case against Kuldeep Singh. When I returned to Unnao I came to know…that my father had died on April 9 in jail. The earlier testimony that I had given about my father dying on April 4 was wrong. But, when I came to know of that, I purchased kerosene and came from Delhi with the determination to commit suicide.”
The CBI argument had, however, focussed on the beating being a result of an altercation between Pappu and one Shashi Pratap Singh who was known to Atul Sengar.
The judge who pronounced the verdict commended the investigative and prosecuting teams for their hard work.
Arguments on the quantum of punishment shall be held on March 12.