Assault occurred in a coach; court holds Railways ‘vicariously responsible’

Fourth Additional District and Sessions judge B.K. Naik on Saturday sentenced two persons to life for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl in a train at Mangalore Central Railway Station in 2010. The court also held the Railways “vicariously responsible” for the incident and directed the Railway Board to pay compensation to the victim, a native of Odisha.

K. Ashok, who was hired by a railway contractor, and Nishit A., a mechanical helper in the Southern Railway, were found guilty of raping the girl in the coach of a train bound for Goa on July 14, 2010.

The court had convicted the two under Section 376 (2) (g) of the Indian Penal Code on Tuesday.

Apart from sentencing the two to life imprisonment, the judge directed then to pay a fine of Rs. 25,000 each.

Mr. Naik said no leniency or sympathy could be shown to the two. The court, he said, should hear the loud call of justice for the offence that had lowered the dignity of women. “A proper message must go [out] to people at large that such inhuman acts cannot be excused,” he said. It was necessary to award severe punishment to the two, he added.

‘No attention to safety’

Turning his attention to the Indian Railways, the judge said the incident showed that the Railways and the Railway police had not paid much attention to the safety and security of passengers. The judge said they were vicariously liable to pay for the harm caused to the victim. The victim was entitled to just and reasonable compensation. He left it to the Railway Board to decide the quantum of compensation. A copy of the judgment would be sent to the chairperson of the Railway Board, he said.

Mr. Naik said the nature and gravity of the offence was such that it would last for a long time in the victim’s mind.

“She will not be in a happy mood … such incidents do not wash off from the memory.” He also turned down the convicts’ plea for leniency in punishment citing conditions in their family.

In 2010

The girl had escaped from a house in Kadri where she was working and came to the railway station. She was found in a semiconscious state in the coach by a woman sweeper, who shifted her to the women’s waiting room at the station. It was after Childline staffers counselled her that she revealed details of the sexual assault, which led the police to register the case. The Government Railway Police then arrested three persons.

The main accused, Shameesh, a porter hailing from Payyanur in Kerala, is still at large.

The Sessions Court on Tuesday acquitted Abdul Sattar Ayub, a platform vendor, due to lack of evidence.

The fine imposed has to be paid to the victim immediately after completion of the period of appeal. The court deducted from the term of imprisonment the 44 months that the two have been in detention.