THRISSUR: In a unique POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act) judgment, the Thrissur 1st Additional Sessions Court on Tuesday sentenced pastor Sanil K James, 35, accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old schoolgirl, to 40-year rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 20,000. Since he undergoes two 20-year terms concurrently for his offences under IPC 376(2)(f) and POCSO section 6, he will have to serve a 20-year term in prison.
The pastor was also found guilty under POCSO Section 5 which deals with penetrative sexual assaults of very serious nature perpetrated on children below the age of 12 by heads of religious organisations, teachers, parents, relatives, and police force members.
Under the provisions of CrPC 357(a), Rs 3,00,000 will have to be paid to the victim from the Victim Compensation Fund of the state government. “The maximum punishment is meant to be a deterrent against such crimes. Be it in the state or the country, this is a unique sentence,” said POCSO special prosecutor Pious Mathew.
Sanil James who was employed as a pastor of the Salvation Army Church in Peechi had, in April 2014, assaulted the girl near his residence. The chargesheet against the pastor was submitted by Ollur Circle Inspector Umesh.
“Another case related to sexual assault on an underaged SC/ST girl has been registered against him. The trial in that case is yet to commence,” said special prosecutor Pious Mathew. According to him, the police had commenced investigation in the case after the Child Welfare Committee filed a complaint against him.
Being a case registered under the POCSO Act, a special POCSO witness box was used which would make it impossible for the victim or the accused to see each other.
The in-camera proceedings too were special: Neither the prosecution nor the defence could question the victim directly.