Indian court hands life term to ex-lawmaker for rape

In a photo from April 14, 2018, Kuldeep Singh Sengar reacts as he leaves a court in Lucknow, India, after he was arrested in connection with the rape of a teenager. PHOTO: REUTERS

LUCKNOW (REUTERS) - A court sentenced a former lawmaker from India's ruling party to life imprisonment for raping a teenager, his lawyer said on Friday (Dec 20), the highest-ranking Indian politician to get such a significant jail term in recent years.

Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, was convicted earlier this week under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. Sengar, who was later expelled from the party, had pleaded not guilty.

The court in Delhi also fined him 2.5 million rupees (S$48,000), Sengar's lawyer Tanveer Ahmad Mir said.

"He got his punishment. I am very happy... Today we got justice," the India Today television network quoted the woman's sister as saying.

The case gained nationwide attention last year when the accuser, who was a teenager in 2017 when she says she was raped, tried to kill herself, accusing the police of inaction.

In July, a truck crashed into a car she was travelling in.

Two of her relatives were killed and she was injured. Since then, the family has been provided with security.

Her case was the latest in a country where sexual violence against women is unabated despite enacting some of the world's toughest laws.

Public outrage has been mounting over the lack of speedy justice for victims.

Sengar is expected to appeal against the decision at the Delhi High Court, his lawyer said, and the case can run for years in Indian courts.

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