Bombay High Court

Bombay High Court: In an application for anticipatory bail in a criminal case of stalking and sexual harassment of a minor girl by an auto driver (accused/applicant), Bharati Dangre, J. held that the prima facie case of accused expressing his liking for the minor girl without any sexual intent does not constitute sexual harassment. The Court, while granting anticipatory bail to the accused said that the accused prima facie deserves protection from arrest.

The present matter relates to a complaint lodged by the father of the 17-year-old girl (victim) under Sections 354, 354-A and 354-D of the Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’) and Sections 8 and 12 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (‘POCSO’) wherein, the accused was apprehending arrest and came up with the present application. The facts reveal that the victim girl travelled in the accused’s auto rickshaw for commuting to the school and tuition for some time and discontinued thereafter. It has been alleged through the complaint that the accused used to follow the victim despite strong protest. On 01-11-2022, he persuaded her to ride on his motorcycle, which was refused by her. Then, he caught her hand and expressed his liking for her, and that he would drop her home, but she desisted the attempt and rushed away.

The Court contemplated from the accusations that there is no prima facie case of sexual harassment, since there is no hint towards holding her hand with sexual intent. The Court informed of filing of chargesheet after completion of investigation and held that prima facie, the accused deserves protection from arrest, since his custody won’t serve any purpose. The Court also warned the accused not to indulge in a similar incident, or otherwise, the protection conferred shall be withdrawn.

The Court directed release of the accusedon bail in the event of arrest in the present matter after furnishing personal recognizance bond and sureties, andt restricted him from establishing any contact with the victim and warned of cancellation of protection conferred, if any such incident is reported. The Court also pointed towards the observations being prima facie in nature and that the Trial Court may not be influenced by the same.

[Dhanraj Babusing Rathod v. State of Maharashtra, 2023 SCC OnLine Bom 518, decided on 10-02-2023]

Judgment authored by: Justice Bharati Dangre

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Applicant: Advocate R.J. Shinde, Advocate M.L. Jadhav;

For Respondents: Additional Public Prosecutor V.A. Thakre, Advocate Samir Das.

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