Mumbai, March 18 (IANS) Child rights activists Friday welcomed the Supreme Court upholding a Mumbai trial court's verdict convicting two Britons in a paedophile case. They, however, said this could have been done sooner.
The apex court upheld the six years' imprisonment awarded to Duncan Grant and Alan John Waters for sexually abusing boys at a children's shelter, Anchorage, in Mumbai along with Indian, William D Souza, who was the caretaker and was awarded three years' imprisonment.
Welcoming the judgment, Kajol Menon, the executive director of Childline India Foundation who filed a case against the trio, said it was too little, too late.
'We are certainly happy that the guilty have been punished. But the children are no more children now. They have lost precious years of their childhood,' she said.
Clearly stating that children in India are too vulnerable to such crimes, she advocated the immediate passing of the Prevention of Sexual Offences Against Children Bill.
Santosh Shinde, a child rights activists and executive director of NGO Bal Prafulta also stressed upon the need for the bill to be passed at the earliest.
'I am glad that the accused have been punished. But what we also require is a strict rule book that governs such shelters. More often, the existing rules are never followed,' he said.
'It is time now that the authorities tighten the noose around the necks of such defaulters,' he added.
Another child rights activist and lawyer Bhuvan Righu stressed upon the rehabilitation of such children.
'I am glad that the judiciary is protecting the child by punishing the accused. But till the time the law enforcement rules are not strictly followed, such crimes will keep happening,' he said.
'Moreover, six years is too little for people who have committed such a crime,' he added.
Grant and Waters, who are in Mumbai, refused to comment on the subject. Their lawyer Taraq Sayed, however, said they will surrender once the warrants against them are issued.
'Duncan is yet to serve 2.5 years of his term, while John has to serve only one year of his imprisonment term,' Sayed said.
D'Souza has finished serving most of his term, Sayed added.
Aged between eight and 18, there were around 90 boys at Anchorage, which was set up by Grant in 1995 in the upmarket Colaba area of south Mumbai.
On March 18, 2006, both Grant and Waters were convicted by a sessions court and sent to six years in rigorous imprisonment in 2006 for sexually exploiting five minor boys at the shelter houses run by them in Mumbai and neighbouring Murud.
The third accused, William D'Souza, was also sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment for abetting the crime.
All the three accused Grant, Waters and D'souza were acquitted by the Bombay High Court in 2008 due to lack of evidence.
The case first came to light in 2001 when Childline received a distressed call from a 15-year-old boy who complained of being sexually abused at the shelter.
Four other boys followed suit. Later, police charged the three men with sodomy and sexually abusing boys.