An Indian special court has sentenced a man who raped an 11-year-old relative over four days to life in prison. The sentencing came on Friday (11 August) after the child, who received no support from her parents, testified against him.
The special Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Posco) court also ordered the 56-year-old accused to pay a compensation of Rs 50,000 (£604) to the child, which she will receive after she turns 18.
Refusing any kind of leniency to the accused, who claimed he was suffering from hypertension and had to marry off his daughter, the court said: "When the accused is making submissions about his ailments, the plight of the victim, her helplessness at the time of the incident has also to be considered.
"She was at the mercy of this accused. But he had committed the heinous offence with the girl whom he was expected to take care of."
The special court also rejected the claims made by the defence that the girl had falsely implicated him as she was fed up of being repeatedly taken to shrines for exorcism. It also dismissed the argument that the court "cannot rely on the sole testimony of a victim child suffering".
The abuse took place in October 2014 when the child, who is from the south Indian state of Karnataka, was sent to the relative's house to undergo exorcism. Her parents believed she was possessed by evil spirits.
But her ordeal started when the family of the accused left for Gujarat in western India, leaving her alone with the man, who sexually assaulted her on 23 October 2014. The rape continued for the next few days, with the accused confining her to a room and threatening to kill her if she disclosed the assault to anyone.
However, on 26 October, the girl managed to escape and took shelter at the house of a neighbour, who helped her lodge a complaint with police.
The girl, who was later shifted to a child shelter, told the court she wanted to continue living there as she knows her parents would never accept her and would discontinue her schooling.
Her parents apparently did not attend the trial, but were reportedly seen visiting her at the shelter home. The prosecution argued that they may have visited her to influence or warn her.
"Generally parents are the first persons to raise their voice for the cause of their child, but here is a case where parents have not turned up for the cause of their child," the court said during the hearing.