Upholding the conviction of three persons for gang-raping five mentally challenged girls in an orphanage run by them, the Bombay High Court has come down heavily on the state Child Welfare Committee (CWC) for failing to do its duty as a watchdog.
A division bench of justices RV More and Anuja Prabhudessai upheld the conviction of Ramchandra Karanjule, Nanabhau Karanjule and Khandu Kasbe on charges of gang-raping and molesting five girls, including three minors, at an orphanage, run by private trust ‘Kalyani Mahila Bal Seva Sanstha’ at Kalamboli in Navi Mumbai.
Ramchandra Karanjule and his wife were trustees of the orphanage.
In its 120-page judgement on March 11, the high court has come down heavily on the CWC for not doing its job properly and failing to keep a watch on the orphanage.
“The CWC is a primary body for addressing needs of children in need of care and protection. The CWC is required to play a role of watchdog at the district level and ensure that standards of care are maintained and the incidents of exploitation and abuse in all child care institutions are addressed,” the high court said.
“In the present case, facts clearly indicate that the CWC members have not acted in the best interest of the child. The insensitive role of CWC in adopting ‘I see no wrong and hear no wrong’ greatly perturbs our judicial conscience,” the bench observed in its order.
“Had they (CWC) performed their duties sincerely and with sensitivity, the truth would have been unearthed and these young helpless vulnerable victims would not have been physically, sexually and emotionally traumatised,” it said.
The HC, while upholding the conviction of the three persons, observed that the prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt their case that the girls were raped.
The court observed that Ramchandra, as director of the orphanage, portrayed himself to be a “savior, protector and guardian” of such girls who were abandoned by their families and shunned by the society.
“The girls were totally dependent on him for food, clothing, shelter and the other basic necessities for survival. They had nowhere to go and no one to confide in or complain to and had to accept the situation as part of their life, by suppressing their feelings, emotions and anger.
“It was only after the committee appointed by this court took the girls into confidence and encouraged them to give vent to their feelings that they expressed their fear, shame and anger,” the court said.
The high court commuted the death sentence awarded to Ramchandra, and allowed the appeal filed by him challenging his conviction under section 302 (murder) of IPC for allegedly causing the death of one inmate.
The high court had upheld his conviction for gang-rape and sentenced him to ten years in prison.
The HC, while acquitting Ramchandra on charges of murder, observed that the prosecution was not able to adduce evidence to prove that the death of an inmate was caused due to physical and sexual abuse.