A court in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, has convicted activist Parvez Parwaz in a two-year-old rape case and sentenced him to life imprisonment, The Indian Express reported on Thursday. The district sessions court found Parwaz and co-accused Mehmood alias Jumman Baba guilty of gangraping a woman on June 3, 2018.

Parwaz had moved the Allahabad High Court in 2007 against Chief Minister Adityanath, who was then a Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Gorakhpur, alleging that a provocative speech made by him led to riots in Gorakhpur and surrounding areas. Parwaz along with one eyewitness, Asad Hayat, had moved the court demanding an investigation by an independent agency into the communal riots.

In 2017, the Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government refused to grant permission to the court to prosecute him in connection with the case. However, Parwaz then moved the Supreme Court and challenged the government’s decision not to prosecute.

The activist was arrested in September 2018, after a 40-year-old woman accused him and Mehmood of raping her. The complainant, a vegetable vendor, had alleged that the accused had lured her to an isolated place on the pretext of helping with her marital problems and raped her at gunpoint.

“District and Sessions Judge Govind Vallabh Sharma on Tuesday sentenced the two accused – Parwez Parvaz and Mehmood alias Jumman – to life imprisonment,” government counsel Yashpal Singh said. “The court also imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 each on both and ordered that Rs 40,000 from the fine be given to the victim.”

The details of the judgement, however, are still awaited, according to The Wire.

Miftahul Islam, Parwaz’s lawyer, said that they will challenge the conviction in a higher court, as the sessions court had not allowed the defence to submit written arguments during the hearing. “Without concluding the arguments, the judgement was pronounced,” Islam told The Indian Express.

The government counsel rejected the allegation and said the lawyers were given ample amount of time to submit their arguments. “They [the defence counsels] were stalling the court proceedings in order to delay it,” he added. “The court proceedings were held as per the law.”

Meanwhile, Parwaz’s friends have told The Wire that he was falsely implicated in the rape case. They alleged this was because of his pursuit of the hate speech case against Adityanath.

An unidentified friend of Parwaz claimed the case against the activist was baseless. “The rape case itself began in 2018, even as he faced another charge for allegedly doctoring the CD that showed Adityanath delivering the hate speech in 2007.” The Uttar Pradesh government had refused to grant sanction to prosecute Adityanath, saying the “video evidence [the CD]” sent to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory in 2014 had been “tampered”.

The friend, who is a lawyer by profession, added that Parwaz was arrested in 2018 immediately after the rape complaint and never got bail, not even when the Allahabad High Court had initially ordered a stay on the arrest of the primary accused Mehmood.

What happened in Gorakhpur

On the night of January 26, 2007, a group of men had allegedly molested women who were part of a musical troupe, and had then joined a passing Moharram procession. There was firing during the procession, following which clashes broke out. A Hindu man was killed.

Curfew was then imposed in parts of the city. The next evening, violating Section 144 that prohibited the assembly of more than four people, Adityanath had delivered a speech outside Gorakhpur railway station. Petitioners contended that Adityanath’s provocative speech had led to riots in Gorakhpur and surrounding areas. Two people had died, and there was extensive damage to homes, shops and vehicles.

In February 2017, the state government had told the court that the Crime Branch-Crime Investigation Department had asked the state government for permission to prosecute Adityanath under Section 153(a) for promoting enmity between groups. Investigating officer Chandra Bhushan Upadhyaya said that he had filed his report in 2015.