This Article is From Jan 16, 2015

Gangraped at 13, This Woman Has Been Waiting for Justice for a Decade

She, along with her family members, has had to attend numerous court hearings.

Lucknow: It has been nearly ten years since a 13-year-old girl was gangraped by six men in Lucknow in May 2005, in what came to be known as the Ashiana case.

Since then, she and her family members have attended numerous court hearings in pursuit of justice. Yet, the main accused of the case, has remained free all these years.

Gaurav Shukla, the main accused, also happens to be the nephew of former Samajwadi Party Member of Legislative Council Arun Shukla.

Mr Shukla had contested, and lost, the 2014 Lok Sabha elections on an SP ticket from Unnao.

Two other accused have died since the incident; two others were sentenced for 10 years and the third was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Soon after the incident, Gaurav claimed to be a juvenile, in a separate case filed by his co-accused against him. On the basis of this, the juvenile board declared him a juvenile in the gangrape case in October 2005.

Jalaj Gupta, the lawyer for the survivor, claimed that the accused used forged documents to hide his real age.

"We got a copy of the municipal birth certificate which shows his age was 18 years and two months at the time of the incident," says Mr Gupta. But the accused produced a transfer certificate from a local school, claiming he was born in 1989, and was 16 at the time of the rape.

The survivor hails from an impoverished family and did not even have money to afford a lawyer.

"We had to collect donations to help her," said Madhu Garg, the President of the All India Democratic Women's Association's state unit.

In 2006, they filed an appeal against the juvenile board's order. This case dragged on for four years and in 2010, the court quashed the juvenile board's order.

It took the juvenile board three years to decide whether Gaurav was not a juvenile. Incidentally, one of the witnesses testifying against him was the principal of the school whose certificate Gaurav allegedly forged.

Between 2013 and 2014, the board declared twice that Gaurav was not a juvenile at the time of the rape. Both times, the accused appealed against the order.
Terming the process a travesty of justice, IB Singh, a senior lawyer from Lucknow, said, "While the accused took advantages of the loopholes in the judicial system, the state government did nothing to help the survivor. They did not even assign her a special counsel".

The case has now been transferred to a fast track court in Lucknow, which was constituted under the new rape laws formed after the Delhi gang-rape case. Ironically, its first hearing could not take place as the lawyers were on strike. (Gang-Raped, Burnt With Cigarettes, Her Hope for Justice Now Fast-Tracked)

While the accused is now a married man, the girl has been living in ignominy for all these years. But she still hopes to start her life anew.

"The day I get justice, that will mark the beginning of a new life for me," she says.