A former Uttar Pradesh minister from the Akhilesh Yadav Government, Gayatri Prajapati and two others were sentenced to life imprisonment by a special court in Lucknow on Friday for gang-raping a woman and her minor daughter.
The Special Court for lawmakers, presided over by Additional Sessions Judge P K Rai also imposed a fine of Rs 2 lakh on each convict.
Prajapati and two other convicts Ashok Tiwari and Ashish Shukla were present in the Court when it pronounced the quantum of sentence against them.
It Court has held that the prosecution has been able to prove charges against them beyond reasonable doubt.
The court had found all the three guilty of committing gang-rape under Section 376 (D) of the IPC and making "gang penetrative sexual assault on a child" under Section 5 (g) read with Section 6 of the POSCO Act.
Section 6 of the POCSO Act provides for the punishment for gang-raping a minor girl. The punishment ranges from at least a 10-year jail term to life imprisonment.
Prajapati held transport and mining portfolios in the Akhilesh Yadav cabinet and was arrested in March 2017. He had been in jail since then.
During the hearing on Friday on the quantum of sentence, the counsel for Prajapati and others pleaded before the court for leniency in awarding the sentence.
But the prosecution counsel opposed it vehemently, arguing that Prajapati was a minister in the government when he committed the offence along with his accomplices and if a man holding such a responsible post commits this kind of offence, misusing his power and position, the Court should deal with him sternly to give a message to the society.
While convicting the trio on Wednesday, the Court had acquitted four others, Vikas Verma, Roopeshwar, Amrendra Singh, alias Pintu, and Chandrapal due to lack of evidence.
The prosecution had produced 17 witnesses in the case.
While holding the trio guilty, the Court had also directed the Lucknow police commissioner to ascertain the circumstances in which the rape victim and two other witnesses had changed their statements time and again during the trial.
While deposing before the Court, the victim had initially supported her allegation of gang-rape in the FIR, but during her cross-examination, she had retracted from it.
The Court, however, relied on her initial deposition while convicting the trio.
The FIR against the minister was registered at the Gautampalli police station here on Feb 18, 2017 on the directions of the Supreme Court, which had given its order on the victim's plea against the police inaction over her complaint.
The woman had claimed that the minister and his accomplices have been raping her since October 2014 and she decided to complain against them after they targetted her minor daughter as well in July 2016.
With PTI inputs