Delay in lodging complaint in sexual offence cases is to be considered in favour of the victim if her testimony inspires confidence

Bombay High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Swapna Joshi, J. dismissed a criminal appeal filed against the decision of the trial court convicting and sentencing the appellant (accused) for offences punishable under Sections 323 and 354 IPC along with Section 8 of Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.

The appellant was accused of outraging the modesty of the prosecutrix (her daughter). It was alleged that on the night of 9-8-15, while the prosecutrix was sleeping, the appellant fondled her private parts, which continued for 2-3 nights. Thereafter, the prosecutrix went to the house of her maternal aunt, where again, the appellant came and abused her maternal aunt and tried to take the prosecutrix with him. She told the incident to her aunt who informed the mother of the prosecutrix. The appellant was given a chance to improve but in vain. He repeated the incident, and therefore, a complaint was lodged by the prosecutrix with the Women Cell. Learned Counsel for the appellant challenged the decision of the trial court on various grounds. He inter alia contended that the inordinate delay in lodging the complainant was not appreciated by the trial court and thus the court erred in convicting the appellant.

The High Court perused the record and found that at the time of the incident, the prosecutrix was 15 years of age. She did not inform about the incident as she wanted to give a chance to the appellant- her father, to improve. When she went to her maternal aunt’s home, the appellant tried to repeat the incident and thereafter she informed about the incident to her aunt. The appellant was warned but he did not mend his ways. It was only thereafter, that a formal complaint was lodged with the Women Cell. The Court observed, “it is a settled law that the delay in lodging complaint, in case of sexual offences is to be considered in favour of the victim if her testimony inspires confidence as under normal circumstances the reputation of the entire family of the prosecutrix is at stake.” The Court was of the opinion that the prosecutrix lodged the complaint after giving a full thought and the resultant delay was properly and convincingly explained by her. In such facts and circumstances, the High Court upheld the impugned decision of the trial court and dismissed the appeal. [Ajay v. State of Maharashtra,2018 SCC OnLine Bom 1202, dated 05-06-2018]

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