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Woman struggles to free husband after her rape accusation results in 20-year jail sentence

Ms. Dang says now neither her family nor her in-laws accept her. File image for representation

Ms. Dang says now neither her family nor her in-laws accept her. File image for representation | Photo Credit: S. Siva Saravanan

Caught in a complex legal web, a woman whose very statement led to a 20-year jail sentence for her husband, is now struggling to secure his freedom in Odisha’s Balangir district.

The case came to light when Jepal Mahakur, husband of the woman, Abhangini Dang, moved the Orissa High Court to set aside the judgment of the Balangir Fast Track Special Court (FTSC), which has convicted him under the stringent provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

Both Ms. Dang and Mahakur belong to Bilaspur village under the Tusura Police Station limit in Balangir district. When Ms. Dang was 15 years old, she had allegedly entered into a relationship with her husband, who was then 23 years old.

On the night of January 4, 2016, Mahakur took the woman, then a minor, to his house and had a physical relationship with her. On the instruction of his family members, Mahakur dropped Ms. Dang back at her house and allegedly refused to marry her.

Ms. Dang’s family members had then reported the matter to the police. Her statement was recorded in accordance with Section 164 of the CrPC. Her school certificate, in which February 2, 2001 is mentioned as the date of birth, was taken into consideration as her legal age.  The case was heard by the FTSC, Balangir.

As witness number 10, the woman had deposed before the court and accused Mahakur of committing rape without her consent.

During the trial, the accused was released on bail after he had spent three years in jail. In this time, Ms. Dang married Mahakur in a temple and they migrated out of district to work in 2019. They lived happily for a couple of years when the court delivered its judgment.

On December 9, 2021, Mahakur was convicted under Section 6 of the POCSO Act and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and a penalty of ₹50,000, in default of which he would have to spend another two years in jail.

Ms. Dang says now neither her family nor her in-laws accept her. Working at a store in Balangir for ₹4,000 per month, she told reporters that she had not known her statement would result in 20 years of imprisonment for her husband.

Mahakur has moved the Orissa HC to set aside the judgment of the FTSC, Balangir. Ms. Dang meets him at the gate of the jail, with scant resources to bear the legal expenses in their effort to secure his release.

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2022 4:29:32 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/woman-struggles-to-free-husband-after-her-rape-accusation-results-in-20-year-jail-sentence/article65576692.ece