Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of Sadhana S. Jadhav and N.J. Jamadar, JJ., pens down the decision in the instant matter with the thought that “protector turns predator”.
The order of the Special Judge, Greater Bombay has been challenged, hereunder the appellant has been convicted for the offences punishable under Sections 6 and 10 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO). Further, in view of Section 42 of the POCSO Act, no separate sentence was imposed upon the appellant for the offence punishable under Section 376 of Penal Code, 1860 despite being found guilty.
The victim was 11 years old at the time of the alleged occurrence. Victim had come to reside with the brother of the accused whose wife was a distant relative of the victim.
Victim apprised the Court about the circumstances in which she came to reside in the house of the brother of the accused and found herself with the accused since 23-10-2014. Victim further informed that during those 4 days, while the victim and the accused were at home, the accused undressed and asked her to undress as well.
Victim was exploited on 3-4 occasions and stated the details of the same. Further, she was also threatened that in case she discloses the said incidents, then the accused will bring 3-4 more people to exploit her and thereafter kill her.
A victim stands on higher pedestal than an injured witness.
Bench stated that it is well settled that the victim of a sexual assault is not an accomplice. Nor is it an immutable rule of law that the testimony of a survivor cannot be acted without corroboration in material particulars.
Reference to the Supreme Court decision in Mohd. Imran Khan v. State Government (NCT of Delhi), (2011) 10 SCC 192, wherein it was observed that:
“It is trite law that a woman, who is the victim of sexual assault, is not an accomplice to the crime but is a victim of another person’s lust. The prosecutrix stands at a higher pedestal than an injured witness as she suffers from emotional injury.”
“…If for some reason the court is hesitant to place implicit reliance on the testimony of the prosecutrix it may look for evidence which may lend assurance to her testimony short of corroboration required in the case of an accomplice. If the totality of the circumstances appearing on the record of the case disclose that the prosecutrix does not have a strong motive to falsely involve the person charged, the court should ordinarily have no hesitation in accepting her evidence.”
Further, the Court recorded that indeed there were no signs suggestive of the use of force and vaginal/anal intercourse, nor any external injuries were noticed on the person of the victim.
In view of the above background, Special Judge was persuaded to hold that there was no material to show that the victim was subjected to penovaginal intercourse by the accused. However, there was evidence to indicate that the accused committed penetrative sexual assault by way of digital penetration and sexual assault by touching and pressing breasts of the victim.
In the High Court’s opinion, the Special Judge’s approach was justifiable.
The evidence can not be appreciated bereft of the circumstances and context.
The hapless and unsuspecting victim found herself at the mercy of the accused, with nobody else in the house. Hence the victim’s claim that the accused threatened her with dire consequences and subjected her to sexual exploitation cannot be discarded.
Further adding to the observations, Bench stated that there was no material to indicate, nor an endevour was made to elicit in the cross-examination of the victim ‘M’, that the latter offered resistance. In the absence of forcible resistance, the absence of injury on the person of the victim is not sufficient to discredit the victim’s evidence.
Therefore Court found no infirmity in the impugned judgment and order of conviction for the offences punishable under Sections 6 and 10 of the POCSO Act and Section 376 of IPC.
A.P.P., P.P. Shinde submitted that no leniency should be given to the accused as he preyed a child of 11 years and left a permanent scar on the mind of the victim.
There can be no duality of opinion that the sexual assault cases are required to be dealt with sternly and the offenders deserve no leniency.
The evidence laid in the instant case undoubtedly justifies the finding of penetrative sexual assault within the meaning of clause (b) of Section 3 of the Pocso Act, 2012. The act also falls within the dragnet of clause (b) of Section 375 of the Penal Code which defines the offence of rape, as substituted by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.
Therefore, a sentence of rigorous imprisonment of 10 years, which is the minimum prescribed by Section 6 of the POCSO Act, would meet the ends of justice.
Impugned Judgment of Conviction for the offences punishable under Sections 6 and 10 of POCSO Act, 2012 and Section 376 (2) of IPC stands confirmed.[Fazal Mehmud Jilani Dafedar v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 3380, decided on 26-11-2020]
Advocates who appeared in the instant matter:
For Appellant: Sayed Shabana M. Ali
A.P.P. for the State: P.P. Shinde