Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: Rumi Kumar Phukan, J. allowed a criminal petition filed against the order of the trial court whereby the petitioner-husband was directed to hand over the custody of the minor daughter to the respondent-wife.

The parties were married to each other and a daughter was born to them — presently around 3 years old. After the birth of the daughter, the respondent developed physical ailments for which she had to undergo treatment at various places. It was an admitted fact that presently the parties were residing separately and the respondent was staying at her paternal home. The daughter resided with the father. In January 2019, the respondent was admitted to a hospital and requested the petitioner to bring the daughter to see her. The petitioner did accordingly. However, on the very next day, the respondent went to the petitioner’s house to bring back the daughter with her. She also filed a petition under Section 97 (search for persons wrongfully confined) CrPC, stating that under Section 6 of the Hindu Minority Act, she was the natural guardian of the child and therefore she should be given her custody. The trial court ordered that the custody of the daughter be handed over to the respondent. The said order was affirmed by the Sessions Judge in revision. Aggrieved thus, the petitioner filed the present petition.

A.M. Bora, Advocate made submissions on behalf of the petitioner. While the respondent was represented by Dr B.U. Ahmed, Advocate.

In hIgh Court’s opinion, for invoking the special provision of Section 97, it was to be seen whether the child had been wrongfully confined by the petitioner. In addition to the above facts, it was noted that the child was wrongfully left by the respondent in the custody of the petitioner because of her ill health since 2017. In such circumstances, it could in no way be stated as confinement. It was observed: “… strangely, the learned court treated the matter as if dealing with the custody of the child and gave the custody of the child to the respondent/wife which is beyond the jurisdiction of Section 97 CrPC. The provision of custody of the child can be decided under Section 25 of the Guardian and Wards Act and the same cannot be adjudicated in the petition under Section 97 of the Code. The only question which is to be decided while passing any such order by a court that there was certain wrongful confinement of a person while initiating the proceeding. As has been discussed above, no matter of wrongful confinement has been made out as against the petitioner, who is the natural guardian/father of the child.”

In such view of the matter, it was held that the impugned orders were passed without jurisdiction and were therefore quashed.[Sanjeev Kumar Singh v. O. Mema Devi, 2019 SCC OnLine Gau 2874, decided on 16-07-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

South Africa High Court, Kwazulu–Natal Division: This appeal was preferred before the Bench of Ploos Van Amstel, J., against the order of conviction and sentence of appellant passed by regional Magistrate for commission of crime of rape in contravention of Section 3 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Act, 2007.

Facts of the case were such that the complainant a minor girl alleged appellant for the offence of raping her on several occasions between the years 2012 to 2015. The case went before the Magistrate where he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Mkumbuzi, Counsel on behalf of the appellant submitted that complainant was not a competent witness and thus, her evidence was inadmissible on the ground that Magistrate had failed to establish if complainant understood the difference of truth and lies or the consequences of lying in accordance with Section 164(1) of the Act, 1977. Case of DPP v. Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, 2009 (4) SA 222 (CC) was relied on where it was stated that a child unable to comprehend what it was to speak the truth cannot be admonished to speak the truth and hence, was an incompetent witness and cannot testify.

High Court was of the view that the rationale behind a person to be admonished to speak the truth was to make sure that the evidence was reliable without which the appellant’s right to a fair trial would be compromised.  Agreeing with the submissions of the appellant the conviction and sentence were set aside and the appeal was allowed. [SS v. State, CASE NO. AR 220 of 2018, Order dated 01-03-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J. partly allowed a revision petition against the order of the trial court passed under Section 125 CrPC holding that the trial court erred in equalising the effort of both parents in the upbringing of their child.

The petitioner and the respondent got divorced in 2007. The petitioner filed an application under Section 125 CrPC claiming maintenance for herself and the minor child born from the wedlock. The trial court did not grant any maintenance to the petitioner holding that she was employed with an MNC and could maintain herself. It, however, directed the respondent to pay a sum of Rs 10,000 per month towards the maintenance of the child. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner filed for the revision of the trial court’s order.

The High Court agreed with the finding of the trial court as far as the petitioner was concerned. It held that the petitioner could maintain herself. However, in regard to the maintenance of the child, it was held that the trial court’s approach of holding both parents equally liable to pay towards the maintenance of the child was not right. It was observed: “It would be incorrect to hold that both the parents are equally responsible for the expenses of the child. A mother who has custody of a child not only spends money on the upbringing of the child but also spent substantial time and effort in bringing up the child… No doubt, mother, if she is earning, should also contribute towards the expenses of the child but the expenses cannot be divided equally between the two.”

It was further held that the trial court should have awarded the maintenance from the date of filing of the application rather than the date of the order. Resultantly, the amount of maintenance to be paid by the respondent for maintenance of the child was increased to Rs 20,000 per month, payable from the date of filing of the application under Section 125 CrPC.[Lopamudra Bhuyan v. Surajit Singh, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8267, dated 30-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Bench of G.S. Sistani and Jyoti Singh, JJ. dismissed an appeal filed against the order of the family court whereby the appellant’s application demanding a DNA test of the child born to her wife was rejected.

In his pleadings, the husband had submitted that the wife was not living with him at the relevant time and therefore he could not be the father of the child born to her. This fact was denied by the wife in her written statement. Pertinently, the husband did not lead any evidence to substantiate his pleading that the wife was not in the matrimonial home at the relevant time. Consequently, his demand for conducting a DNA test of the child to ascertain the paternity was rejected.

The High Court did not find any infirmity in the family court’s order. Reference was made to Section 112 of the Evidence Act which says that birth during marriage to be a conclusive proof of legitimacy unless it can be shown that the parties had no access to each-other at the time when the child could have been begotten. But as noted above, the husband did not lead any evidence to substantiate his pleading. The High Court observed: An application seeking DNA test of the child in our view has very strong repercussion on the child and such an order for conducting a DNA test should be passed in very rare cases where very strong reasons are set out and in extreme circumstances when the matter cannot be resolved by leading evidence in the matter.” In such view of the matter, the appeal was dismissed. [CKP v. MP, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8077, dated 02-04-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Sri Lanka: In this appeal violation of Right to Equality was contended which was even upheld by the bench of Sisira J. De Abrew, A.C.J. and L.T.B. Dehideniya and P. Padman Surasena, JJ.

In the pertinent case, appellant complained that his fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 12(1) of the Constitution has been violated by Respondent 1. His child was not admitted to Grade I in Vishaka Vidyalaya, Colombo in the year 2014 even after the directions of the Respondent 2 to admit his child in the School.

The Court considered the material facts and directed the 1st respondent to comply with the direction within one month from the date of judgment and asked 2nd respondent to undertake the responsibility of informing further.[B.A. Nulara Nethumi v. S.S.K. Awiruppola, 2019 SCC OnLine SL SC 2, Order dated 24-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of N. Seshasayee, J., allowed an appeal on the ground that the respondent gave up his interest in the Order that he had obtained in his favour. 

The facts of this case are that respondent is the biological father of the child and the appellant is the maternal grand father of the child. Seeking custody of the minor child, the respondent filed a petition before the Additional District Court, and the same was ordered in his favour. Challenging the order of the lower Court, the appellant preferred the present appeal.

The counsel for petitioner, Advocate R.Shivakumar, argued that the respondent had gotten married and settled down and did not turn up to see his daughter. It was also reported that the child was 17 years and she does not remember to have seen her father.

The counsel for the respondent, Advocate N.U. Prasanna submitted that the respondent had no interest to take immediate custody of the child since the child was only few months to attain majority and that she had not been in his care through out the duration of this litigation.

This Court allowed the appeal on the ground that the respondent gave up his interest in the order that he had obtained in his favour. [R. Venkatesan v. J. Gunasekaran, 2017 SCC OnLine Mad 35492, Decided on 10-11-2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: The Bench comprising of N. Kirubakaran and Abdul Quiddhose, JJ. dealt with a petition in which father (i.e. petitioner) of a child approached the Court seeking euthanasia, as his child’s brain was injured and continued to be in persistent vegetative state.

Petitioner in the present case approached the Court seeking mercy killing or euthanasia for his child on account of the child’s brain being dead since past 10 years. He stated that the child was diagnosed with the condition of Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) and after receiving treatments from various hospitals no sign of improvement was seen.

The notable facts as submitted by the petitioner were that the child was not aware of himself or anything happening around him as he was suffering from a severe form of brain damage in which only his reflexes worked for any movements or actions. On facing the above-stated circumstances and situation of the child, the petitioner approached the Court.

The Court on referring the decision of Supreme Court in Common Cause v. Union of India, (2018) 5 SCC 1 and by order dated 24-08-2018, appointed a 3 member search committee to nominate 3 doctors for child’s examination. On examination,n it was found that the child does not fit the category of persistent vegetative state and his condition cannot be reversed. Mr S. Raveekumar, representing Anirudha Medical Organisation (P) Ltd. and its director Dr P. Uma Maheswari convinced the Court to treat the child through Trigger Point Therapy. The results after the said therapy were seemingly good.

The matter was further listed for 08-11-2018 wherein photographs of the child were shown with a huge improvement from the Trigger Point Therapy.

Thus, the Court taking a suo motu stand impleaded Medical Council of India to answer ‘whether there is any Superspeciality Diploma or Superspeciality Course available in Trigger Point Therapy and Musculo Skeletal Therapy and how many experts are available in India for the said therapy. Central Government and Medical Council of India are also asked to submit their answers with regard to the above stated. The matter is listed for further hearing. [R. Thirumeni v. Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine Mad 3303dated 08-11-2018]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Pakistan: A 3-Judge Bench comprising of Gulzar Ahmed, Qazi Faez Isa, and Sajjad Ali Shah, JJ. while hearing a criminal appeal against conviction of a minor, pulled up the Trial Court and High Court for indulging the prosecution despite its failure to establish case beyond reasonable doubt.

The instant appeal was directed against the judgment of Lahore High Court convicting appellant under Section 9(c) of the Control of Narcotic Substances Act, 1997. Police recovered narcotic drugs from the vehicle of appellant and his brother and arrested the appellant, but his brother absconded. At that time, appellant was not even a teenager. The Trial Court found him guilty and High Court confirmed his conviction. Aggrieved by these orders, the appeal was preferred before the  Supreme Court.

It was observed that as a Juvenile Court under Section 4 of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance, 2000, trial court was obliged to protect the interests of the appellant. However, questions for determination of relevant factual issues were not formulated. Despite submission of police report after two years, Trial Court did release the appellant on bail as per Section 10(7) of the Ordinance. The High Court, while exercising appellate jurisdiction, perpetuated these errors.

The Bench noted several loopholes in the prosecution case such as poor investigation, prosecution’s admission of spoiling the case, no arrest warrant for the co-accused and incomplete witness accounts. The prosecution, having completely failed to establish its case against the appellant, let alone having established it beyond a reasonable doubt, appeal was allowed directing the appellant to be released.

The Court expressed anguish over the fact that due to inept investigation, a child remained incarcerated for over eleven years and attained majority in jail. Though the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance did not stipulate the period within which trials/ appeals should be concluded, but its stated purpose is to ‘provide for protection of children’. Considering the provisions of the Ordinance and Article 25(3) of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan which envisages ‘protection of women and children’, the Court directed that trial of juveniles be concluded without delay and appeals against their conviction be prioritized and expeditiously decided. [Muhammad Adnan v. State, Criminal Appeal No. 90-L of 2017, decided on 13-09-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Vipin Sanghi and I.S. Mehta, JJ. modified the sentence of the appellant convicted under Sections 363, 376(2)(i) and 506 IPC along with Sections 5(m) and 6 of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.

The appellant was accused of convicting rape upon a 9 years old girl. He was driver of the school transport facility availed by the girl. The trial court convicted him of the offences mentioned above and he was sentenced to life imprisonment under Section 376(2)(i) along with sentences for other offences. Aggrieved by the same, the appellant filed the instant appeal.

The High Court rejected all his submissions against the judgment of conviction by the trial court. The Court, on perusal of the facts, held that there was no merit in submission of the appellant that identity of the perpetrator of the crime was in doubt. The prosecution evidence was sufficient to bring home the guilt of the accused. Contentions were also raised regarding the sentence awarded. It was submitted that the appellant was 42 years of age and had a family of four minor children and a wife. The Court referred to its previous judgments and reiterated the parameters for assessing the quantum of punishment in cases of rape upon a child which include, inter alia:

  • Criminal and crime, both are important for purpose of sentencing;
  • Manner of commission of crime is to be considered;
  • Violence, if any accompanying the crime;
  • Whether the offender was in a position of fiduciary trust or exploited a social or family relationship;
  • Impact of the crime on victim;
  • Antecedents of the offender;
  • Passage of time since offence committed;
  • Rehabilitation of the rape victim; etc.

Taking into account all the facts and circumstances of the case and judging them on the aforementioned parameters, the Court was of the view that interest of justice would be met if the sentence of the convict-appellant awarded for the offence punishable under Section 376(2)(i) was reduced from imprisonment for rest of his life to 16 years rigorous imprisonment without remission. Sentence qua other offences was ordered to remain unaltered. The appeal was disposed of in the terms above. [Om Prakash v. State of Delhi,2018 SCC OnLine Del 10732, dated 21-08-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab & Haryana High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Jaishree Thakur J., addressed an appeal challenging the judgment of the lower court in regard to the reduction of sentence.

The brief facts of the case state that the appellant was a convict under Sections 366 & 376 of IPC, for committing the rape of a 6 year old child. On recording of the statements of the accused under 313 CrPC all the allegations on his part were denied and he pleaded innocence. Appellant was acquitted earlier by the session’s court. However, on appeal, the matter was remanded back by the High Court after setting aside appellant’s acquittal. And thereafter, he was convicted as aforesaid.

The Learned Counsel for appellant by placing reliance on the various precedents submitted that his Right of speedy trial under Article 21 of the Constitution of India grants him the leniency and reduction of sentence awarded as he already has faced trial for 25 years.

However, the Hon’ble High Court on observing the above said facts and circumstances and the instance of cases given by the learned counsel for appellant in reference to the reduction of sentence, stated that “Rape” is a heinous offence which along with physical scars impact the mental well-being of the child equally and in a huge extent and manner. While stating the above-mentioned contentions of the appellant, Court also focused on a case of State of Rajasthan v. Vinod Kumar, 2012(6) SCC 770, in this case also reduction of sentence was demanded for an offence of rape and the accused was granted reduction of the sentence, though the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that “deciding the case in such a casual manner reduces the criminal justice delivery system to mockery.”

Therefore, keeping a sight of all the stated contentions and instances placed upon, the High Court dismissed the appeal of the convict finding no merits on the defence that he had put forward as the fact that the victim a 6 year old child was raped, the award of sentence of 10 years was rightly imposed in accordance to Section 376(2)(f) IPC. [Inder Sain  v. State of Punjab;2018 SCC OnLine P&H 797; dated 04-05-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Refusing to expand the scope of the word ‘child’ under Section 2(d) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act) to include  the   “mental   age”   of   a   person   or   the   age determined   by   the   prevalent   science   pertaining   to psychiatry   so   that   a   mentally   retarded   person   or   an extremely intellectually  challenged person who even has crossed the biological age of 18 years can be included within the holistic conception of the term “child”, the bench of Dipak Misra and R.F. Nariman, JJ held that the Parliament has felt it appropriate that the definition of the term “age” by chronological   age   or   biological   age   to   be   the   safest yardstick   than   referring   to   a   person   having   mental retardation.

In the case where both the judges wrote their separate but concurring opinion, it was said that the POCSO Act has identified minors and protected them by prescribing the statutory age which has nexus with the legal eligibility to give consent. It may be due to the fact that the standards of mental retardation are different and they require to be determined   by   an   expert   body.   The   degree   is   also different.  If a victim is mentally retarded, definitely the court trying the case shall take into consideration whether   there   is   a   consent   or   not.   In   certain circumstances, it would depend upon the degree of retardation or degree of understanding. It should never be put in a straight jacket formula.

Explaining the scope of the power of the Court to interpret the word “child” to give it a broader meaning, it was noticed that the legislature despite having the intent in its Statement of Objects   and   Reasons   and   the   long   Preamble   to   the POCSO Act, had defined the term “age” which does not only mention a child  but adds the words “below the age of 18 years”. The Court said that had the word “child” alone been mentioned in the Act, the scope of interpretation by the Courts could have been in a different realm and the Court might have deliberated on a larger canvass.

The Court was hearing the appeal of a sexual assault victim suffering from Cerebral Palsy due to which though being a 38-year-old, her mental age is no more than 6-8 years. [Eera v. State, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 787, decided on 21.07.2017]