teacher offer flowers to student

Supreme Court: In a criminal appeal against Madras High Court’s decision dismissing the convicts’ appeal under Section 374(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (‘CrPC’) against Special Court’s decision convicting A-1 under Section 12 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (‘POCSO Act’) and A-2 under Section 506 of the Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’), the three Judge Bench of Dipankar Datta, K.V. Viswanathan and Sandeep Mehta, JJ. allowed the appeal and set aside the impugned decision.

Factual Matrix

A-1 and A-2 held positions as Tamil and Social Science teachers, respectively. On 14-02-2018, at around 10:15 A.M, A-1 entered the classroom and approached the student, an eighth-grade minor girl aged about 13 years during the academic year 2017-18, and forcefully presented her with roses, jasmine flowers, and chocolate in the presence of fellow students. Upon her refusal to accept the same, A-1 allegedly twisted her arm, coercing her into accepting the same. A-2 called the minor girl and enquired why she was refusing to talk to A-1 and that if she continues to not talk to him, A-1 would die, and she would be held responsible. On 15-02-2018, another teacher informed the minor girl that she was called to the physical education teacher’s room by A-1, where A-1 inquired why she was not talking to him. The minor girl’s father approached the headmaster of the school, however, instead of addressing the issue, upon assuring appropriate action, he advised the father to not disclose it to anyone. A first information report (‘FIR’) was lodged on 19-02-2018 against the for the offences under Sections 11(i) and 12 of the POCSO Act.

The Special Court convicted A-1 under Section 12 of the POCSO Act and sentenced him to three years of rigorous imprisonment together with a fine of Rs. 30,000/- and A-2 under Section 506 of the IPC and sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 20,000/. In an appeal against the order of conviction, the High Court viewed that the findings of the Special Court did not warrant any interference and dismissed the appeal.

Testimony of the victim in matters involving sexual offences

Regarding the weight of the testimony of the victim in matters involving sexual offences where the prosecution’s case hinges on the victim’s evidence, the Court referred to Ganesan v. State, (2020) 10 SCC 573, wherein, it was laid down that the sole testimony of the victim, if found reliable and trustworthy, requires no corroboration and may be sufficient to invite conviction of the accused. Further, in Rai Sandeep v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2012) 8 SCC 21, it was opined that the ‘sterling witness’ should be of a very high quality and caliber whose version should, therefore, be unassailable. The consistency of the statement right from the starting point till the end is highly relevant. The Court noted that in Krishan Kumar Malik v. State of Haryana, (2011) 7 SCC 130, it was laid down that although the victim’s solitary evidence in matters related to sexual offences is generally deemed sufficient to hold an accused guilty, the conviction cannot be sustained if the prosecutrix’s testimony is found unreliable and insufficient due to identified flaws and lacunae.

The Court said that where witnesses are neither wholly reliable nor wholly unreliable, the Court should strive to find out the true genesis of the incident. The Court also clarified that victim can be relied upon as a ‘sterling witness’ without further corroboration, but the quality and credibility must be exceptionally high. The Court also highlighted the importance of the consistency of the statement of the victim from the beginning to the end, with expected minor inconsistencies.


In the matter at hand, the Court noted several contradictions and discrepancies in the oral evidence of the prosecution witnesses. The Court said that the complaint by the minor girl’s father was filed in a hurry, with absolutely no time being given to the headmaster of the school to conduct any enquiry at all. The Court upon examination of the statement of the minor girl’s maternal uncle, noted that the headmaster of the school was approached after the complaint was lodged. The Court also said that the father of the minor girl did not depose anything as to him approaching the headmaster of the school for his intervention. The Court said that there were numerous contradictions in the depositions which raised the question that whether the headmaster of the school was approached at all. The Court noted that the minor girl in her statement under Section 164 of the CrPC stated that it was it was her maternal uncle, who approached the headmaster but in her deposition on oath she stated that it was her s maternal aunt who approached him. Further, on perusal of the headmaster’s deposition, the Court noted that there was no reference to any such complaint being received by him.

The Court said that strangely the father of the minor girl in his cross examination stated that he made an oral complaint to the headmistress of the school. The Court said that there was no reference to the existence of a headmistress by any witness. Further, the Court highlighted that there was no clarity as to who approached the police station, as there were contradictory statements regarding the same.

The Court found manifest discrepancies in the minor girl’s statement recorded under Section 164 of the CrPC and her deposition recorded in the Court as to the twisting of her arm by A-1. The Court noted that it was mentioned in her statement that A-1 twisted her arm when she declined to accept the rose and chocolates, however, in her deposition before the Court she stated that A-1 attempted to give her a flower and when she refused, he forcibly placed it in her hand.

Regarding the role of the headmaster, the Court noted that in addition to being the head of the institution, he held the significant position of a priest and with his solemn duty as a priest, his responsibilities as the master of the entire institution included overseeing of daily activities involving both students and teachers. However, the Court said that being the prosecution witness, he should have been questioned about the alleged incident, and this dented the prosecution’s case severely.

The Court said that the Special Court drawing the conclusion with reference to 14th February being valentine’s day to indict A-1 was not logical and rational. Regarding the High Court’s view that the minor girl was physically attacked by A-1 by pinching her, the Court said that the High Court proceeded to decide the appeal with a coloured vision of the minor girl having been sexually assaulted, which unfortunately led to deflection of justice, when it was nowhere mentioned in the deposition by the minor girl that A-1 pinched her.

The Court added that for the corroboration of the minor girl’s version, a fellow student was brought in as a witness, who became hostile, but a part of her testimony supported the allegation levelled against A-1, indicating that the act of giving a flower became a topic of conversation among other students in the class. The Court answered the issue that whether the evidence on record was sufficient to record conviction against A-1 and A-2, in negative. The Court also said that while the actions of A-1, may fall within the purview of ‘sexual harassment’ under Section 11 of the POCSO Act, the evidence in the present case was damaged by inadequacies from the outset, evident in contradictions within statements and testimonies.

The Court stated that “the reputation is earned by a teacher upon rendering service over the years and an accusation like the present would remain as an indelible mark marring his entire future life. Care has, therefore, to be taken so that his right to live a life of dignity and personal liberty are not put to jeopardy on the basis of half-baked evidence.”


Thus, the Court allowed the appeal and the conviction of A-1 and A-2, by the Special Court and the sentence imposed upon them, affirmed by the High Court, was set aside. The Court directed for immediate release of A-1 and A-2.

[Nirmal Premkumar v. State, 2024 SCC OnLine SC 260, Decided on: 11-03-2024]

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