Meanwhile, a court refused pre-arrest bail to three church priests in a separate rape case filed by a woman in southern India's Kerala state.

India registered about 40,000 rape cases in 2016, up from 25,000 in 2012. Rights activists say thousands more go unreported.
India registered about 40,000 rape cases in 2016, up from 25,000 in 2012. Rights activists say thousands more go unreported. ( Reuters Archive )

A lawmaker from India's governing Bharatiya Janata Party was charged on Wednesday in connection with the rape of a teenage girl, a case that has embarrassed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government amid a spate of sexual violence that has stirred street protests.

Over 100 rapes are reported in India every day but the lawmaker's case has strong political overtones with critics accusing Modi's BJP in Uttar Pradesh state of hindering judicial action against the veteran legislator.

Kuldeep Singh Sengar was arrested in April in connection with the rape of the teenager in the city of Unnao, in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, a year after the alleged attack.

With opposition groups joining protests and vigils in cities across India calling for tougher action, Uttar Pradesh authorities handed over the investigation to the federal Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) police.

In a statement, the CBI said it had filed charges based on its inquiry into a complaint submitted by the teenager's mother alleging that her daughter, a minor, was taken to the lawmaker's residence by a local woman and raped there.

Sengar's lawyer, R K Singh, said in April his client was innocent and the case was a conspiracy to harm his political career.

Woman says she was raped by three church priests

An Indian court on Wednesday refused pre-arrest bail to three church priests in a rape case filed by a woman in southern India.

Fearing arrests, the three approached the Kerala state High Court in the city of Kochi after the state police early this month began investigating a complaint by the woman that they sexually exploited her over years.

Justice R Vijayaraghavan on Wednesday said he could not ignore the police's concern that the priests would try to tamper with the evidence and influence witnesses during the investigation, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

They are likely to be arrested soon. The priests deny the rape accusation against them.

There was no immediate comment by their Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, headquartered in Kottayam, a city in Kerala state. Christians comprise nearly 25 percent of Kerala state's 34.8 million people.

The complainant's husband said he came to know about the abuse in February this year when he noticed a suspicious bank statement about a hotel transaction in his wife's email inbox. When questioned, his wife told him how she was abused over the years by the priests who were allegedly blackmailing her over a confession she made in the church a decade ago, the Indian Express newspaper said.

The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has 30 dioceses across the world, with the majority in India.

The brutal rape in 2012 of a 23-year-old medical student, who died of her injuries, sparked nationwide outrage and forced changes in the law. But six years later, there are few signs that sexual violence against women is abating.

India registered about 40,000 rape cases in 2016, up from 25,000 in 2012. Rights activists say thousands more go unreported.

In January, an 8-year-old Muslim girl from a nomadic community that roams the forests in Kashmir, was drugged, held captive in a Hindu temple and sexually assaulted for a week before being strangled and battered to death with a stone. Eight men are accused of being involved in the crime.

Her case caused a wave of revulsion around the country but also exposed communal divisions after two former ministers of the BJP joined a rally in support of the eight accused, saying they were innocent. 

A poll of global experts released last month had found India as the world’s most dangerous country for women due to the high risk of sexual violence and being forced into slave labor.

Source: AP