The woman was outside her house in a village in the Indian capital Delhi on Monday evening when she was allegedly approached by a 32-year-old man named Sonu, an additional deputy commissioner of Delhi police, R P Meena, said.
“The accused asked her to accompany him on his two-wheeler (vehicle) on the pretext that he had to ask for his money back from someone and that they would be sympathetic if he was accompanied by an old lady,” Meena told CNN Thursday.
Neighbors heard the woman screaming for help and called the police. The accused was caught at the scene and arrested for rape and voluntarily causing hurt, Meena said.
According to Meena, the woman did not know the accused and the police don’t believe that the crime was premeditated. The woman sustained minor injuries during the struggle and has been discharged from the hospital as she is in a stable condition, he added.
Under Indian law, rape carries a possible sentence of life imprisonment. The death sentence is also available for repeat rape offenders, gang rapists, or people convicted of raping a minor.
The case has prompted anger from the Delhi Commission For Women (DCW), a statutory body that investigates safety and security issues relating to women.
On Wednesday, the DCW wrote a letter to the lieutenant governor of Delhi — the constitutional head of the city — appealing to him to fast-track the case and ensure that the accused receives the harshest possible sentence.
The chief of DCW, Swati Maliwal, alleges that the 86-year-old was assaulted and raped multiple times, although police have not confirmed those details.
“The woman’s medical examination report has revealed several injuries and bruises on her body especially on her private parts,” the letter said. “She has bled profusely and is in extreme trauma.”
India has seen several high-profile rape cases in recent years, including the rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a New Delhi bus in 2012 that made international headlines. Four men were executed earlier this year over her death.
Following that case, campaigners called for tougher laws on sexual assault in the country. Despite reforms — which included fast-track courts to move rape cases through the justice system swiftly — the number of reported rapes has risen since 2012.
Last year, more than 33,000 cases of alleged rape were reported — roughly 91 cases each day, or one rape every 16 minutes, according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau.
Maliwal told CNN Thursday that, after the 2012 gang rape, a law was passed which said that if a police officer for any reason refuses to register a rape complaint, then a complaint can be filed against him, which likely was one of the reasons behind the rise in reported rapes.
However, she believed that the level of brutality in sexual violence crimes had increased in the past few years.
“This is one of the worst crimes I’ve come across in the last five years,” she said, referring to the alleged rape of the 86-year-old.
She said that stronger laws were not enough if they weren’t implemented properly — and noted that she had still received numerous reports of sexual violence from women during the past few months when India has been in lockdown.
“(Sexual violence crimes) are definitely not declining and without the government ensuring timely punishment there is nothing to deter offenders,” Maliwal said.