NEW DELHI: Proving that a girl had been raped by her uncle, two years after the crime, would have been very difficult, but a Delhi trial court relied on the child’s crayon sketches to convict the accused and award him five years in jail.

The girl, who is 10 now and studies in a school, belongs to a broken family in Kolkata, but she suffered the most as an eight-year-old while staying with her aunt in Delhi. Her uncle, Akhter Ahmed, allegedly sexually assaulted her several times before she fled.

He was arrested last June, but his lawyer argued that the girl had been tutored to accuse him of rape and could not be considered a ‘competent witness’. The case turned unexpectedly when the girl, given paper and crayons to keep her occupied during the hearing, sketched an abandoned house, a girl holding balloons attached to entwined strings, and a dress lying beside her. She filled the drawings with ‘gloomy’ colours. Additional sessions judge Vinod Yadav regarded the sketches as the child’s impression of her ordeal.

“If the elements of this drawing are considered in the background of facts and circumstances of this case, then commission of sexual assault upon her by somebody in her house after undressing her, and it leaving an impression upon her mind, becomes evident,” he said, adding that it was enough to explain the girl’s suffering to someone having no knowledge about the facts of the case. “Therefore, I find the child victim to be a competent witness,” ASJ Yadav said.

Her uncle Akhter Ahmed might have escaped punishment but for the care and rehabilitation the girl received after she was found in a bus in November 2014. Her alcoholic father had abandoned her when her mother died, and the aunt who brought her to Delhi had made her work at another house. Besides the work and the ill-treatment, she also suffered sexual abuse by her uncle, and eventually fled home. “Her so-called saviour had committed repeated sexual assault on her,” the court said.

The girl’s medical examination indicated possible sexual assault. She was counselled by members of HAQ Centre for Child Rights and opened up to them, but it still took them time to piece together a description of Ahmed. When he was traced and arrested on June 4, 2016, he claimed innocence. The court held that since the sexually abuse was not penetrative, the man would get only five years’ RI and a fine of Rs 10,000. For the girl’s welfare and rehabilitation, the court ordered a compensation of Rs 3 lakh in fixed deposits. It also praised HAQ counsellors Pearl Messy and Uzma Parveen for providing the child institutional care.

“The legal battle is over. The girl lives in a children’s home and is attending regular school. She is doing very well in her studies and hopefully the compensation will help to build a bright future for her,” her lawyer and child rights activist Chandra Suman Kumar told TOI.