Julius Kitbok Dorphang, a former MLA from Meghalaya's Mawhati, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Wednesday, August 25, for raping a 14-year-old girl in 2017.
Dorphang was punished by FS Sangma, a special judge in Ri-Bhoi, the district from which Dorphang was elected to the state legislature.
According to the Shillong Times, the verdict was handed down on August 13 and the charges were read out on August 24, including a fine of ₹ 15 lakh in addition to the jail sentence. The ex-legislator was also the founder and leader of the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council, a separatist organisation (HNLC). Dorphang ran for state assembly in 2013 after surrendering to the police in 2007.
He was elected from the Mawhati seat in Meghalaya's Ri-Bhoi district. On the basis of nine FIRs filed by the state Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Dorphang was one of 12 people detained for being part of an unlawful sex trafficking network in the state (CPCR). Dorphang went into hiding after a district court issued a non-bailable order against him on January 4, 2017. The authorities launched an inter-state manhunt as well as considerable indignation from Shillong women's groups.
Action Taken Against MLA After 4 Years
Dorphang allegedly raped a young girl in a guesthouse owned by the son of then-state home minister HDR Lyngdoh on December 15, 2016. Civil Society Women's Organisation (CSWO) and Thma-U-Rangli-Juki (TUR) – two women's organisations in the state – took to the streets of Shillong to demand that Dorphang be punished and Lyngdoh resign from the Cabinet.
Dorphang was seized at a bus stop in Guwahati, Assam, and taken to a Shillong district court, where he was charged under the POCSO Act and the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act. He was subsequently transferred to the Nongpoh district jail, where he remained until 2020, when he was granted medical bail by a single-judge bench of the Meghalaya high court. According to the Shillong Times, he has been returned to the district jail following his conviction.
Kishore Ch Gautam, Dorphang's legal counsel, has stated that the ruling will be appealed to the Meghalaya High Court.