A fast-track court in India has sentenced two men to life in prison for the rape and impregnation of their 10-year old niece in the northern city of Chandigarh, police confirmed Thursday. The victim gave birth to a baby girl via caesarian section in August.
The brothers, 38 and 44, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were also fined 305,000 rupees each ($4,800), according to senior superintendent of Chandigarh police Nilambari Jagadale.
The family of the victim greeted the news with a mix of relief and disappointment, having called on the judge to deliver death sentences.
“The father was of the view that this was the worst kind of crime that can be committed with a small child and the rapists must be hanged,” said Alakh Alok Srivastava, the lawyer who represented the victim’s family.
With the court cases complete, both the victim and her family are now attempting to return to normalcy, Srivastava said. The victim’s baby was placed in the care of Chandigarh’s child welfare committee immediately after birth, Srivastava confirmed.
Parole or a reduction in the sentencing of the two brothers is unlikely, Srivastava said.
Police initially arrested only one maternal uncle. The search for a second suspect was initiated only after forensic tests failed to show a match between the DNA of the girl’s baby and samples taken from the first uncle.
“We got the baby’s DNA tested by our forensic department, and it matched the (sample taken from the) second uncle,” Jagadale told CNN in October.
The second, younger uncle was arrested September 19 after the girl named him during a counseling session.
Denied an abortion
The girl, who gave birth on August 18 at the Government Medical College and Hospital in Chandigarh, had the baby only after India’s Supreme Court rejected the family’s plea for an abortion in July, based on the opinions of eight doctors and an examination of the girl.
The girl was 35 weeks’ pregnant, according to the Hindustan Times.
Under India’s Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, the country does not permit abortion beyond the first 20 weeks of pregnancy unless the individual is granted special permission from the courts.
The girl’s family did not approach the authorities about the pregnancy until the 26th or 27th week, Srivastava told CNN during a previous interview.
The girl’s doctor told CNN she was unaware she was pregnant. Her parents told her she needed surgery for a kidney stone problem and refused to allow medical professionals to tell their child the truth, said her doctor, who did not wish to be named.
The harrowing story has garnered press attention across India, a country still grappling with issues of sexual assault following the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape – a particularly brutal case that resulted in protests and a renewed debate around the status of women in the nation.
Despite attempts by the government to increase penalties for sexual assault, the number of reported rapes rose by 50 percent between 2011 and 2016.
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 reported by Agence France-Presse.
In May, the high court allowed a 10-year-old from the northern state of Haryana who had been raped to abort her fetus at nearly 21 weeks into the pregnancy.