Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of Manmohan and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal, JJ. dismissed a criminal leave petition filed by the State challenging the order of the Additional Sessions Judge whereby the respondent-accused was acquitted of offences punishable under Sections 376, 366 and 363 IPC along with Section 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
The father of the victim had lodged a complaint that his minor daughter (aged about 17 years) had not returned home from school. During the course of the investigation, the victim was recovered from the possession of the accused. After completion of investigation, charge sheet wassailed against the accused of the offences as aforementioned. The accused was, however, acquitted by the trial court.
Aashaa Tiwari, APP appearing for the State, submitted that as the victim was a minor at the relevant time, her consent to accompany the accused and to have physical relations with him was of no consequence.
Perusing the statements of the victim, the High Court noted that she has misrepresented her age to be 18 years to the accused. She had also categorically stated that had she not done so, the accused would not have allowed her to accompany him.
It was observed: “The element of mens rea, which is an essential ingredient of Sections 363, 376 IPC is missing. In the present case, it is only because of a misrepresentation by the prosecutrix with regard to her age, which the respondent-accused bonafidely believed to be true that he allowed her to accompany him.”
The Court noted further: “In fact, statement of the prosecutrix clearly negates any charge including Section 6 of POCSO. Consequently, as the respondent-accused had not knowingly committed any offence, none of the charges can be said to have been proven.”
Considering the well-settled law that an acquittal order cannot be lightly interfered with by the Appellate Court, the High Court declined to interfere with the order of the acquittal passed by the trial court. The leave petition was thus dismissed.[State (NCT of Delhi) v. Kaishar Ali, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 9875, decided on 30-08-2019]