Kerala High Court

Kerala High Court: In an appeal by a father against his conviction for offences under Section 5(n) read with Section 6 and 9(n) and Section 10 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (‘POCSO Act’) and Section 506 of the Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’), wherein the victim was his own daughter, the Division Bench of PB Suresh Kumar and Johnson John, JJ. held the evidence of victim daughter to be sterling evidence and did not find the sentence imposed to be dispropotionate.

It was alleged that the appellant penetrated his penis into the mouth of the victim — his 9-year-old daughter and threatened her of causing her death if she disclosed the same to anyone. The Court looked into the evidence and pointed towards the appellant’s decision not to adduce any evidence, and his claims of him being falsely implicated in the case with a view to avoid him at the instance of his wife who allegedly maintained an illicit relationship with another man. The Special Court in turn did not find the case suitable for acquittal under Section 232 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (‘CrPC’), later found him guilty, and thereby convicted him with a sentence of imprisonment for life for offence under Section 5(n) read with Section 6 of POCSO Act, and imprisonment for five years under Section 9(n) read with Section 10, and imprisonment for one year under Section 506 Part 2 of IPC.

Court’s Analysis

Considering whether the conviction and sentence imposed were sustainable in law, the Court referred to the evidence of the victim’s mother who was employed in a private medical college at the relevant time, disclosed about the victim (studying in 4th standard on 9-08-2013) was looking upset when the mother came back from work, and informed the incident to her regarding father penetrating his penis into her mouth, and further threats. The Court did not disbelieve the evidence tendered by the victim’s mother. Coming to the victim’s evidnece and pointed out that “nothing was brought out to doubt the veracity of the evidence tendered by her”.

The Court acknowledged the fact that there was only victim’s evidence to prove the occurrence, and hinted towards the settled law that the evidence of sexual assault victim could be the sole basis of conviction, provided that the same was of a ‘sterling quality’, citing Rai Sandeep v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2012) 8 SCC 21. Evaluating the material on record, the Court was of the view that the evidence tendered by the victim in the instant matter satisfied the requirements of a sterling witness, and affirmed the Special Court’s findings.

Coming to the sustainability of the sentence imposed, the Court highlighted the fact that the accused, the appellant in the instant matter was none other than the biological father of the 9-year-old victim girl. The Court did not find the punishment to be disproportionate to the gravity of the offence. The Court did not find any merit in the instant appeal and dismissed the same.

[Stephen v. State of Kerala, 2024 SCC OnLine Ker 1240, decided on 13-03-2024]

Judgment by: Justice PB Suresh Kumar

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Appellants: Advocate K. Jagadeesh

For Respondents: Special Public Prosecutor Ambika Devi S

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