Swathi Sukumer, iProbono
NEW DELHI: She was three when she was raped and made to testify in court against her attacker, who was then let off on grounds that the child's account was "unreliable".
In a landmark judgement this week, the Delhi High Court criticized the trial court and convicted the rapist. The child, now five, didn't need to go to court this time.
Court papers call her "Baby N" but to lawyers who fought her case, she is "Amal" or hope. Her cheerful manner betrays nothing of a crime so brutal that she had to go through three reconstructive surgeries, with a fourth on the way.
"She identified him, she is the one who took the police to the jungle and found his clothes," said her mother.
The three-year-old was asked in her cross-examination: "Gudiya tum jhoot bol rahi ho (child, you are lying, right?") True or not?" When her mother asked the judge to see the evidence, she was told, "Don't interrupt."
Amal's mother earns 200 rupees a day and has battled alone after she was abandoned by her family. The 25-year-old was so desperate that she left her daughter in an orphanage for six months, believing she would recover faster there.
She hopes when the rapist is sentenced on October 27, she can return with Amal to their home in West Delhi, which they left in a hurry after the attacker was freed.
Amal's story is a textbook case of what goes wrong in a rape trial. She was let down by a fast track court set up for quicker justice in a massive overhaul of laws after the 2012 gang-rape.
On Monday, High Court judges Mukta Gupta and Pradeep Nandrajog noted how Amal had taken the witness stand and pointed at her rapist, and how she was questioned like an adult witness.
The trial court called her 'untrustworthy' as she couldn't describe the incident clearly and explain why she went with the man.
The high court judges observed, "A three-year-old is not accountable for how she accompanied the accused to a secluded spot."
Swathi Sukumar from Iprobono, the lawyers' group that moved the High Court for Amal, said, "What's amazing is that usually rape victims are too traumatised but she was able to identify the rapist and lead them to the evidence."
This article is from NDTV