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15 yrs’ RI for cop, actor

Imphal, Dec. 11: An Imphal court today sentenced a police constable and his singer-actor friend to 15 years’ rigorous imprisonment with fine for gang-raping a schoolgirl inside a restaurant in Imphal West district last year.

District and sessions judge, Manipur East, A. Guneshwor Sharma, who on Monday found police commando constable Yumnam William, 28, and actor-singer Thongam Tarun, 28, guilty of the crime, announced the sentence to a packed courtroom here.

The court also fined the duo Rs 35,000 each for hatching a conspiracy and gang raping the girl. If the convicts fail to pay the fine, they will undergo an additional jail term of three years each.

William and Tarun had abducted the Class XII student of an Imphal school and taken her to a restaurant here where they sexually assaulted her on October 20 last year.

The verdict failed to satisfy relatives and women activists, who were gathered inside the court room and the court complex, where about 50 armed police personnel were deployed to prevent trouble.

“I am happy that justice has been delivered to my daughter, but the quantum of punishment is not enough. They should be given capital punishment as my daughter’s life has been destroyed and she is as good as dead,” the victim’s mother, Nirmala Devi, said.

Immediately after the judge announced his verdict, protesters started shouting slogans outside the courtroom, near the entrance of the court building. They also made an abortive attempt to attack the convicts when they were being taken from the courtroom to the waiting police van.

The police personnel did not react till the protesters started throwing stones at the van when it started moving out of the court complex with the convicts. The police then took to a lathicharge. The women protesters hit back at the police with bare hands, resulting in a scuffle.

The protesters also tried to block the police van by lying down across the road at the gate of the court complex but were physically removed by the women police to give away to the police vehicles.

The protest ended soon after the convicts were taken back to jail.

“The quantum of punishment is not enough. They should be given capital punishment,” Loitongbam Shushila Devi, coordinator of Women Action for Development, an NGO working for women, said.

During the sentence hearing, prosecution director Ngangom Tejkumar Singh pleaded for maximum punishment since William was a policeman, whose duty was to protect life and property, and Tarun was an artiste having a responsibility towards society.

The counsels of the two convicts pleaded for minimum punishment, which is 10 years’ imprisonment.

Tejkumar Singh said, “I am happy with the verdict. I had pleaded for maximum punishment (life term). Fifteen years is between the maximum and minimum.”