Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: S.C. Gupte, J., dismissed a guardianship petition on the ground of jurisdiction.

A Guardianship petition was filed under Sections 6 and 11 of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956.

Petition sought petitioner’s appointment who was stated to be the father of the two minors for whose guardianship the present petition was filed.

Another relief was sought concerning the minor’s property, particularly a declaration that the respondent mother had unauthorizedly and fraudulently withdrawn or transferred amounts from the bank accounts of the minors for her personal use and benefit and a recovery order by making payment to the petitioner as their natural guardian or by depositing the same in the bank accounts of the minors.

Section 7 read with Section 8 of the Family Courts Act reserves exclusive jurisdiction to entertain a suit or proceeding in relation to the guardianship of the person of any minor unto Family Courts by virtue of Clause (f) of the Explanation to Sub-section (1) of Section 7.

Full Bench of Bombay High Court observed that in view of the provisions of the Family Courts Act, the Court exercising its ordinary original civil jurisdiction relating to matters under the Family Courts Act would lose its jurisdiction to the Family Court, since the former would be a district court and under Section 17 of the Family Courts Act that Act would have an overriding effect.

An application for guardianship of the minor’s person can lie only before the Family Court.

Bench while moving forward with other prayers expressed that an application for a declaration about the property of a minor, which is said to be fraudulently or unauthorisedly transferred, and an order for recovery of that property cannot lie in a guardianship petition independently of any claim for being appointed as a guardian of the person or property of a minor.

“…what lies before a court, other than a family court under Section 7 of the Family Courts Act, is an application for appointment of guardian of the property of a minor or an application for permission to deal with such property. It is only these applications which are made by means of a guardianship or a miscellaneous petition before this court.”

 Petitioner’s case was that the bank accounts were created and monies were deposited into them for the sake of ensuring the minors’ pursuit of education and that these amounts, meant for the minors’ education, were illegally withdrawn by the respondent mother.

To the above, Court stated that is the petition sought to be framed as a petition for making provision for maintenance of the minors by seeking to recover amounts illegally withdrawn by respondent-wife, it would obviously be an application in the nature of a proceeding for maintenance. The said application would also exclusively lie before the family court.

Hence, In Court’s opinion, the instant guardianship petition was dismissed, and this Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the same. [Ashu Khurana Dutt v. Aneesha Ashu Dutt, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 550, decided on 01-04-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Mr Shanay Shah i/b. Sapana Rachure for Petitioner.

Mr Santosh Paul, Senior Advocate with Pradip Chavan, Mahir Bhatt and Manan Sanghai i/b. Wasim Ansari for Respondent.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: B.N. Karia, J., decided upon a petition which was filed with a request seeking permission to get the pregnancy terminated.

The Counsel for the petitioner, Mr Hardik H Dave had submitted that the victim was aged 13 years and accused is the paramour of the mother of the victim and they lived in the same house. The petitioner while having the doubt that her sister may be pregnant and to confirm the same took the victim for taking a pregnancy test and the test came out to be positive. On inquiry, the victim stated that her mother’s paramour that is the accused herein, for two months had been committing rape and atrocious sexual offence on the body of the victim and the said sexual engagement was without the consent of the victim.

The Court after considering the opinion of the panel doctors rejected the application to get the pregnancy terminated as they had suggested that termination of pregnancy would be very risky.

The Court directed that respondent 3 (Medical Superintendent, Civil Hospital, Godhra) shall provide the victim-girl with all possible medical treatments and shall conduct necessary tests which would also include the counselling by psychologist/Psychiatric and shall also provide requisite medicines and nutritious food. Further, at the time of the delivery victim girl shall be referred to Civil Hospital, Godhra, wherein her delivery, treatment and necessary care shall be taken by the Medical Superintendent, Civil Hospital, Godhra.

The Court further mentioned that if victim-girl and her family inform the authorities about their unwillingness to keep the child, then the efforts should be made to make necessary arrangement for the adoption of child by involving the concerned officials for the adoption of child from the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) or any other recognized Institution expenses of which shall be borne by the Department of the Health and Family Welfare, State of Gujarat.

The disposing of the application directed the Department of Health and Welfare, Government of Gujarat to release sum of Rs1,00,000/- (Rupees One Lac only) in the account of the father/mother of the victim-girl for food and medical expenses.[Sangeetaben Arvindbhai Nayak v. State of Gujarat, R/Special Criminal Application No. 2630 of 2021, decided on 08-03-2021]


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Case BriefsHigh Courts

Meghalaya High Court: H. S. Thangkhiew J., dismissed the writ petition being devoid of merits.

The facts of the case are such that the petitioner herein is the eldest son of the deceased employee who expired when the petitioner was still a minor aged 11(eleven) years old. The petitioner on attaining majority applied for appointment on compassionate ground in the year 2009, and it was only in 2013 that the petitioner was informed vide letter dated 21.03.2013 by the respondent 2 that he was placed at Sl. No. 19 in the list for consideration for appointment on compassionate ground. It was further informed by letter dated 10.11.2014 that after review by the Compassionate Appointment Committee, the petitioner was placed at Sl. No. 37, and thereafter down the year so much so that the petitioner is now placed at 10.1 and it is the norm that a person whose indigent index is less than 10 (points) is no longer considered eligible for appointment. Hence the petitioner herein has preferred this application before this Court on the grievance that his application for appointment on compassionate ground has not been duly considered and that he has been deprived of the same due to the arbitrary acts of the respondents.

Counsel for the petitioner submitted that the respondents have acted arbitrarily and delayed his case which has resulted in his low indigent index ranking and the respondents have not complied with the prescribed Scheme contained in the Office Memorandum dated 09-10-1998 issued by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pension (Department Personnel & Training), for consideration of appointment which has resulted in the deprivation of the petitioner of gainful employment.

Counsel for the respondents submitted that the writ petition is hopelessly barred by delay and laches, inasmuch as, the deceased employee had expired in 2003, the application for compassionate appointment was only made in 2009, i.e. 6(six) years after the death of the employee, and that the petitioner has come to Court only on July, 2017. It was further submitted that this delay defeats the very purpose of compassionate appointment which had been formulated to provide immediate succor to the family of the bereaved to tide over the crisis caused due to the death of an employee.

The Court relied on judgment Umesh Kumar Nagpal v. State of Haryana, (1994) 4 SCC 138, wherein it was held:

“2…. The whole object of granting compassionate employment is thus to enable the family to tide over the sudden crisis. The object is not to give a member of such family a post much less a post for post held by the deceased. What is further, mere death of an employee in harness does not entitle his family to such source of livelihood. The Government or the public authority concerned has to examine the financial condition of the family of the deceased, and it is only if it is satisfied, that but for the provision of employment, the family will not be able to meet the crisis that a job is to be offered to the eligible member of the family. The posts in Classes III and IV are the lowest posts in non-manual and manual categories and hence they alone can be offered on compassionate grounds, the object being to relieve the family, of the financial destitution and to help it get over the emergency”

 “6.For these very reasons, the compassionate employment cannot be granted after a lapse of a reasonable period which must be specified in the rules. The consideration for such employment is not a vested right which can be exercised at any time in future. The object being to enable the family to get over the financial crisis which it faces at the time of the death of the sole breadwinner, the compassionate employment cannot be claimed and offered whatever the lapse of time and after the crisis is over.”

The Court thus observed that the object of compassionate appointment which is an exception to Article 16 (1) of Constitution of India and as has been reiterated by a catena of judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, is to address the immediacy of the need and it is not meant to entertain stale claims. A scheme for the grant of compassionate appointment does not constitute a reservation of a post in favour of a member of the family of the deceased employee, and there is no general right which can accrue to the effect that a member of the family who was a minor at the time of death would be entitled to claim compassionate appointment upon attaining majority.

The Court thus held “no case has been made out by the petitioner for issuance of any direction or for any interference by this Court. Further, no discernable grounds have been made out to show that there was any failure on the part of the respondent No. 1 & 2 in complying with the Scheme for compassionate appointment, nor any materials placed on record to substantiate the allegations that there was any illegality or arbitrariness on the part of the respondents.”

In view of the above, writ petition was dismissed.[Dhaneswar Medhi v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Megh 15, decided on 03-02-2021]


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Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Alka Sarin, J., addressed the case of a 35-year-old Muslim man who married a 17-year-old girl belonging to the same faith. The Court expressed,

“Merely because the petitioners have got married against the wishes of their family members, they cannot possibly be deprived of the fundamental rights as envisaged in the Constitution of India.”

 In the instant case, both the petitioners were Muslims. They fell in love about 2 years ago and decided to perform marriage as per Muslim rites and ceremonies. The petitioners, by this writ petition sought to issuance of mandamus for protection of their life and liberty.

The Bench relied on Yunus Khan v. State of Haryana, 2014 SCC OnLine P&H 3588, wherein, it had been held that “in Muslim law puberty and majority are one and the same and that there is a presumption that a person attains majority at the age of 15 years. It is further contented that a Muslim boy or Muslim girl who has attained puberty is at liberty to marry any one he or she likes and the guardian has no right to interfere.”
Hence, the Bench noted that the marriage of a Muslim girl would be governed by the personal law of the Muslims. Article 195 from the book ‘Principles of Mohammedan Law by Dinshah Fardunji Mulla’ had also provided as under:

195. Capacity for marriage

(1) Every Mahomedan of sound mind, who has attained puberty, may enter into a contract of marriage.

(2) Lunatics and minors who have not attained puberty may be validly contracted in marriage by their respective guardians.

(3) A marriage of a Mahomedan who is sound mind and has attained puberty, is void, if it is brought about without his consent.

 Explanation – Puberty is presumed, in the absence of evidence, on completion of the age of fifteen years.”

 Thus, it was held that both the petitioners were of marriageable age as envisaged by Muslim Personal Law. However, the Court refused to deal with the validity of the marriage and address only the apprehension raised by the petitioners of danger to their life and liberty at the hands of the private respondents and to provide them protection as envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The Court expressed,

“The Court cannot shut its eyes to the fact that the apprehension of the petitioners needs to be addressed. Merely because the petitioners have got married against the wishes of their family members, they cannot possibly be deprived of the fundamental rights as envisaged in the Constitution of India.”

Hence, a writ in nature of mandamus was issued directing Senior Superintendent of Police to protect the life and liberty of the petitioners. [Shoukat Hussian v. State of Punjab,  2021 SCC OnLine P&H 333, decided on 25-01-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: J.J. Munir, J., addressed an issue with regard to whether a posthumous child is entitled to compassionate appointment under Uttar Pradesh Recruitment of Dependents of Government Servants Dying in Harness Rules, 1974.

Petitioner in the instant application claimed compassionate appointment under the Uttar Pradesh Recruitment of Dependents of Government Servants Dying in Harness Rules, 1974.

Petitioner a posthumous child, who was in his mother’s womb at the time when his father passed away in a road accident. The application with regard to the compassionate appointment was made by petitioners mother in the year 2003.

The above-referred application was dismissed by the State Government in view of the same being preferred with a delay of 11 years, 10 months and 3 days, reckoning the delay after giving the benefit of relaxation of five years provided under the Rules of 1974.

Analysis and Decision

Bench in view of the facts and circumstances stated that:

A perusal of the right, which a member of the family of the deceased to compassionate appointment has been given by Rule 5 of the Rules of 1974, makes it clear that it is a member of his family who is entitled to claim compassionate appointment when the deceased, who is in harness and a Government employee, suddenly passes away.

 Further, the Court added that an unborn child does have rights under the law relating to property because it is said that an unborn child is an en venture sa mere; but, to extend to an unborn child the right to compassionate appointment would be contrary to the plain intendment of the Rules of 1974. Even otherwise, the welfare measure under the said rules, though construed liberally in case of members of the deceased’s family who have not been able to tide over the financial crisis till a minor attains the majority and applies under the rules, in the opinion of this Court, cannot be stretched to a limit where an unborn child is also to be granted a right to apply under the Rules of 1974.

High Court opined that an extension of the welfare approach under the Rules of 1974  to that limit would do more harm than good to the rights of the citizen, who otherwise have a right to consideration for appointment to posts under the State in accordance with the recruitment rules, postulating equality of opportunity but no concession.

Hence, Bench held that a posthumous child does not qualify for a minor and a member of the deceased Government servant’s family under the Rules of 1974, entitling him to be considered for compassionate appointment, once he attains majority.

Therefore, the petition was dismissed in view of the above discussion. [Avanesh Kumar v. State of U.P., 2020 SCC OnLine All 144, decided on 09-01-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Pushpa V. Ganediwala, J., altered the conviction of the appellant who was accused of sexually assaulting a minor child by partly quashing his conviction for the offence of sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault punishable under Sections 8 and 10 of POCSO Act, respectively.

The instant appeal challenged the judgment wherein the appellant/accused was convicted for the offence under Sections 354-A(1)(i) and 448 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Sections 8, 10 and 12 read with 9(m) and 11(i) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.

Factual Matrix

Informant i.e. the mother of the prosecutrix had gone to her duty and on returning back home she saw the presence of appellant/accused in her house molesting her minor daughter who was aged about 5 years.

Further, the informant stated that she saw that the accused was holding the hands of her elder daughter. Informant’s daughter had informed that the accused removed his penis from the pant and asked her to come to the bed for sleeping.

Analysis and Decision

Bench noted that the appellant/accused was convicted by the trial court for the commission of offence of ‘aggravated sexual assault’, punishable under Section 10 of POCSO Act. However, to decide whether the alleged act of appellant/accused would fit into the definition of ‘aggravated sexual assault’, Court looked into the definition of ‘sexual assault’, according to which the offence involved the following ingredients:

(i) Act must have been committed with sexual intention.

(ii) Act involves touching the vagina, penis, anus, or breast of the child.

 or

makes the child touch the vagina, penis, anus or breast of such person or any other person.

 or

does any other act with sexual intent which involves physical contact without penetration.

 Further, the Court added that the acts of ‘holding the hands of the prosecutrix’, or ‘opened zip of the pant’ as had been allegedly witnessed by PW-1, which in the opinion of this Court did not fit in the definition of ‘sexual assault’.

Considering the nature of the offence and the sentence prescribed, Court opined that the aforesaid acts were not sufficient for fixing the criminal liability on the appellant/accused of the alleged offence of ‘aggravated sexual assault’.

“At the most, the minor offence punishable under Section 354-A(1)(i) of the IPC r/w Section 12 of the POCSO Act is proved against the appellant.”

Another point noted by the Bench was that as per the definition of ‘sexual assault’, a ‘physical contact with sexual intent without penetration’ is an essential ingredient for the offence.

The definition starts with the words – “Whoever with sexual intent touches the vagina, penis, anus or breast of the child or makes the child touch the vagina, penis, anus or breast of such person or any other person or does any other act with sexual intent……’ The words ‘any other act’ encompasses within itself, the nature of the acts which are similar to the acts which have been specifically mentioned in the definition on the premise of the principle of ‘ejusdem generis.’ The act should be of the same nature or closure to that.

Bench expressed that the prosecution could establish that the appellant/accused entered into the house of the prosecutrix with the intention to outrage her modesty or sexual harassment as defined under Section 11 of the POCSO Act.

Hence, the conviction of the appellant/accused of the offence punishable under Sections 448 and 354-A(1)(i) of the IPC read with Section 12 of the POCSO Act was maintained. The criminal appeal was partly allowed and the conviction of the appellant/accused of the offence punishable under Sections 8 and 10 of the POCSO Act, was quashed and set aside.[Libnus v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 66, decided on 15-01-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: P.V. Asha, J., allowed termination of pregnancy even after 25 weeks 3 days gestational age considering the tender age of the minor and risk of severe psychiatric trauma to the minor rape survivor.

Mother of the minor girl, aged 14 years, filed this instant petition pointing out that the girl was carrying 22 weeks of pregnancy and continuation of the same would be critical to her health and contrary to her interest. It was submitted by the petitioner that the minor was not mentally prepared to accept the pregnancy.

The Court directed the medical Board of specialists to submit a report before the Court in respect of the medical condition of the child and all other related aspects for conducting the procedure of medical termination. The minutes of the Medical Board stated as follows:

  1. In view of the gestational age of 23 weeks plus 4 days, in addition to the usual risks like haemorrhage, sepsis, risk of blood transfusion etc, due to the present gestational age, there is a possibility that the uterus may not respond to the usual methods of medical induction. In that situation we may have to resort to surgical methods (hysterotomy) which involves anaesthesia and surgical risks.
  2. There is a possibility that the child may be born alive, however, the chances of survival is remote.
  3. After examination of the victim; the Psychiatrist opined that continuation of pregnancy may result in severe psychiatric trauma. Hence it was suggested that termination of pregnancy could be considered.

The Court observed that section 5 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 permits termination of pregnancy even in cases where the period of gestation exceeds the period prescribed in Sections 3 and 4 of the Act. The Court relied on Sarmishtha Chakrabortty v. Union of India, (2018) 13 SCC 339, wherein the Supreme Court permitted termination of pregnancy even when the gestational age was 26 weeks. The Court permitted termination of pregnancy, considering the trauma undergone by the minor girl, opinion of the Psychiatrist and the report of the medical board. It was held that in the event the baby is born alive; it has to be taken care of.

The Superintendent of Government Medical College was directed by the Court to ensure that the termination of pregnancy of the minor girl was undertaken by competent Doctors at the earliest point of time, with further direction to the Doctors to take the tissue of the foetus for DNA identification and to maintain the same intact for future purposes, since a criminal case was pending in the instant case. Direction to maintain absolute privacy with respect to the identity of the petitioner and that of the minor girl while issuing the certified copy of the judgment was also given. [XYZ v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Ker 18, decided on 04-01-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: S. Hukato Swu, J. rejected the petition of the petitioner and refused him bail.

The factual background of the case indicates that the petitioner was arrested in July 2020  based on a complaint lodged by the father of the victims who had alleged that the accused sexually assaulted two minor children aged 13 and 15, on several occasions. The petitioner moved this bail application on technical grounds submitting that the I.O. of the case had prayed for extension of judicial remand for 15 days and accordingly the learned CJM granted the prayer, by which the petitioner/accused was remanded to judicial custody. However, after this, there was no further prayer for extension of judicial remand. Therefore, the petitioner argued that the right of the petitioner accrued under Section 167 of the CrPC and he had the right to be enlarged on bail.

Contentions of the Public Prosecutor:

Public Prosecutor, V. Suokhrie submitted that while the case records were transmitted to this Court for considering of the bail petition, the chargesheet was already submitted before the Special Judge (POCSO) and the right of the accused no longer subsisted. She also submitted that the petitioner/accused was a very influential person, no less than a Director of a Department and could have a lot of influence on the progress of the case if he was enlarged on bail. The offence, as such, was also heinous in nature and there was a provision which requires that matters pertaining to POCSO Act to be disposed of within a period of one year. Under such circumstances, granting bail to the petitioner/accused would not be in the interest of the prosecution and hence, she vehemently objected to the consideration of the bail.

Further submission of the prosecution was that the accused and the victim lived in the same vicinity and if the accused was to be released on bail it would jeopardize the mental health of the victims because of the proximity.

The Court viewed this case very seriously and gave more weightage to the submission of the public prosecutor and agreed that offences under the POCSO Act are viewed seriously by the Supreme Court and also the society as a whole due to its frequency. Nevertheless, several steps have and should be taken to see that the menace should be curbed.

The Court while rejecting the bail application of the petitioner opined that the instant case was one where the offence alleged was very unpleasant and needed to be tackled with due consideration to ensure the society doesn’t lose faith in the administration of justice. [Lanu Akum v. State of Nagaland, 2020 SCC OnLine Gau 3982, decided on 23-09-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: A Division Bench of Sonia Gokani and N.V. Anjaria, JJ., while addressing an application with regard to the custody of minor children observed that, it is trite law that till the minor children become 6 years of age, the custody ordinarily shall have to be with mother unless their welfare is an issue with the Court.

In the instant petition respondent 4 stated that initially for 6 months, he and the applicant lived together and after being assured of the relationship, she got the marriage registered under the Special Marriage Act.

Twins were born to the applicant, further the respondent 4 alleged against her about having the intimacy with her female classmate.

It is also stated by respondent 4 that since the applicant was desirous of living freely, she agreed to the divorce on the stamp paper of Rs 100 and they separated.

He denied the allegations of her having been beaten and driven from her matrimonial home and with regard to the custody of the minors, it was also contended that he had not agreed with the children be retained by the applicant.

Mother of the applicant also chose to file an affidavit in favour of respondent 4.

Applicant alleged against the husband that he has criminal antecedents who deals with prohibited liquor and it is also reported in the newspaper.

Decision

According to the Advocate Chavada on behalf of the applicant, it has been a pure mistake on the part of the applicant not to have made mention of the application preferred under the Guardians and Wards Act provisions.

However, the said argument cannot be a bar to file writ petition of habeas corpus.

“Entire story of divorce deed has been concocted and marriage of the couple had been under Special Marriage Act, for they both being of different religions, divorce could not have taken place on Rs 100 stamp paper.”

Welfare of the Minor Children

Court observed that,

“What is far more important is to see as to whether the age of the twins is such where they can reveal their minds and what would be in their interest to do !

When obviously they are unable to state themselves for not having completed 3 years, their welfare would be of paramount consideration of the court.”

Bench stated that it is the requirement of the statute that once having chosen to be spouses under the Special Marriage Act, it is necessary for the parties to take recourse to the very law to even permanently sever the ties.

Writ of Habeas Corpus

In the instant matter, for the purpose of the writ of habeas corpus, Court has chosen not to permit reliance on the said document noticing the very question of the validity of this document couple with a serious allegation against the mother of the applicant.

The prime concern in the present matter is the children’s custody, it is a trite law that till they become 6 years of age, the custody ordinarily shall have to be with the mother unless their welfare is an issue with the Court.

Court further states that it shall not be led by any of the allegations attempting to assassinate the applicant’s character who dares to shape her life with dignity and self-help after leaving her matrimonial home.

Hence in view of the applicant’s position of her having a rented place and running a tiffin service with an earning of Rs 25,000, the right of the children to be maintained by both parents do not go away, the welfare of the children requires their custody to be handed over to the applicant.

With the custody of children being handed over to the mother immediately, the petition was disposed of. [Chavda Twinkle v. State of Gujarat, 2020 SCC OnLine Guj 1167, decided on 17-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Meghalaya High Court: W. Diengdoh, J., rejected an anticipatory bail application which was filed when an FIR under Section 3(a)/4 of POCSO Act was lodged by the Complainant as the mother of the victim alleging that the petitioner had sexually assaulted and raped her minor daughter, after which she was sent for medical examination. During the time of the formal investigation, the petitioner had approached the Court of the Special Judge (POCSO), who had initially granted interim bail to the petitioner and had called for the case dairy and after finally hearing the parties and had rejected the application of the petitioner ordering him to be arrested in the said case. Thus, the instant application was filed with this Court asking for a grant of pre-arrest bail on the ground that he apprehended arrest.

The counsel for the respondent, K. Khan and A.H. Kharwanlang, opposed the grant of the bail contending that statement of the victim clearly stated that she was raped by the petitioner and statement of the petitioner states his admission to the fact that there was sexual intercourse between him and the victim, who was a minor and therefore commission of offence under Section 3 of the POCSO Act had been made out.

The Court stated that though the petitioner had not strenuously denied that he had committed the alleged offence, he had however tried to cast some doubt on the same by stating that it was very unlikely to have committed the offence as the place of occurrence was the servants’ quarter where there were about nine other employees staying there further after perusal of the medical reports it was seen that the age of the victim was between 16 and 18 years, which basically meant that she was still a minor at the time of occurrence and by law, any act, sexual in nature with a minor is a crime.

Thus, considering the gravity of the offence the application of the anticipatory bail was rejected. [Heiratami Biam v. State of Meghalaya, 2020 SCC OnLine Megh 102, decided on 18-08-2020]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

The National Human Rights Commission India has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports that a 13-year-old girl belonging to Scheduled Caste was gang-raped and killed when she had gone to relieve herself on the farmland owned by one of the accused on 15-08-2020. Reportedly the victim was tortured before strangled to death. It is mentioned in the news report that there is a toilet in the victim’s house but it’s not functional.

The Commission has issued notices to the Chief Secretary and DGP, Government of Uttar Pradesh calling for detailed reports in the matter within 06 weeks including disbursement of the statutory relief as per rules framed under provisions of the SC/ST (POA) Act to the family of the victim, action taken against the guilty and the status of the FIRs registered in the matter. The Chief Secretary is also expected to sensitize the district authorities in the State to create awareness that the toilets should not be constructed for mere fulfillment of the government records, they are to be actually made functional.

The Commission found it appropriate to forward a copy of the news item to the Secretary, Union Ministry of Jal Shakti, which is the Nodal Ministry for the ‘Swachchh Bharat Abhiyan.’ It is expected from the Ministry to issue guidelines to all the States and Union Territories to ensure that the toilets are not only constructed but also used to make the country clean and save the women from the heinous crimes committed by anti-social elements when they go out to relieve themselves. He is also expected to respond within 6 weeks.

According to the media reports, both the accused have been arrested by the police. The Senior Superintendent of Police, Kheri has reportedly stated that the FIR has been registered under relevant sections of IPC and POCSO Act. He has further added that the National Security Act will be slapped against the accused who were arrested by the police within few hours after the incident.


National Human Rights Commission

[Press Release dt. 17-08-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Orissa High Court: S.K. Panigrahi, J. rejected the appeal under Section 14-A of the SC/ST (Protection Against Atrocities) Act and laid down the guiding principles for determination of age in a claim of juvenility.

The facts of the case are that a minor girl was raped by the appellant on multiple occasions on the pretext of marrying her and impregnated her after which he gave her certain pills to abort the child. When the girl and his family confronted the appellant he fled after which they filed an FIR against him. The appellant is presently charged under Section 376(2)(n)/313/506 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 read with Section-6 of POCSO Act read with Section-3(2)(v)(va) of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The case has come before this court for the determination of age of the victim during the case was registered.

The counsel for the appellant Satyabrata Pradhan, Adhiraj Mohanty, S.S. Dash, M.R. Muduli, M.B. Smrutiranjan, A.K. Samal submitted that the girl was not a minor during the offence was committed and subsequently when the case was registered by relying on her Aadhar card and Aanganwadi register report which are prepared by public servants in the course of their official duty making them cogent and reliable proof of the age of the victim. He also submitted that the girl and the appellant had a love affair and due to which the girl on her own consent when she was a major made relations with the accused and hence the appellant is innocent.

The counsel of the State P.K. Mohanty submitted that the date of birth of the victim as per the school admission register and also the Board Certificate seized by the police both the date of birth coincides to be below 18 years at the time of occurrence giving rise to the complaint. He further contended that Rule-12(3) of Juvenile Justice Rule, 2007 as well as Section 94 and Sub-section 2(i) of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 provide the procedure to be followed for determination of age.

The Court relied on the Judgment titled Mukarrab v. State of U.P., (2017) 2 SCC 210 and held that court is inclined to go by the school admission register/ matriculation certificate not only due to leaning of the Apex Court on this issue but also due to the fact that same now raises a presumption in law, albeit rebuttable, by way of a deeming fiction in terms of Section 94 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

In view of the above, issue of minority was found irrelevant and appeal rejected. [Debabrata Sahoo v. State of Odisha, 2020 SCC OnLine Ori 545 , decided on 30-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Nitin Jamdar and N.R. Borkar, JJ., permitted the medical termination of the pregnancy of a 13 year old minor girl who was sexually abused by her father.

She had been denied medically terminating her pregnancy at the JJ Hospital Mumbai as the fetus was over 20 weeks old, and such termination was not permissible under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. A petition, was therefore filed seeking such a termination of pregnancy, by her mother who contended that the minor was sexually abused by her father which led to her pregnancy.

A Division Bench of this Court had asked the medical board of JJ Hospital to examine the minor and submit the report before the Court, as to whether it was advisable to permit the termination of pregnancy.

The present bench considering the opinion of Medical Board that a continuation of the pregnancy will cause physical and mental stress for minor mother, permitted the medical termination of pregnancy.

Court also added, in case the child born out of this procedure is alive, the Medical Practitioner conducting the procedure shall ensure that all necessary facilities are provided to such child for saving its life. If the child born is alive and Petitioner and her daughter are not willing to or not in a position to take responsibility of such child, the State and its agencies will have to assume full responsibility for such child.

In the above terms, petition was disposed of. [X v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 677 , decided on 26-05-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Division Bench of Sanjib Banarjee and Kausik Chanda, JJ., granted bail to a rape accused taking note of the submission that the accused and the victim intend to get married in immediate future.

The accused claimed that though the alleged victim was a minor when the accused may have had sexual relationship with her, the victim has now attained majority. It was submitted that the accused and the victim intend to get marry in the immediate future.

Considering this submission, the High Court granted bail to the accused, subject to the Investigating Officer satisfying himself upon conversing with the victim as to her understanding of the situation.

It was further directed that in the event the marriage does not take place within the next 3 months or there is any further complaint from the victim against the accused within 6 months of the marriage, the bail may be annulled.

Subject to the above, the accused was directed to be released on bail upon furnishing a security bond of Rs 10,000 and producing a personal release bond of equivalent value. [Sopikul, In Re, 2020 SCC OnLine Cal 838 , decided on 16-4-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Vibhu Bakhru, J., while dismissing the present appeal upheld the decision of the trial court for offences charged under Section 4 of POCSO Act and Sections 342/363/376 of Penal Code, 1860.

In the present appeal filed by the appellant was convicted by the trial court for the under the above-stated Sections. Appellant contended that the impugned judgment ought to be set aside, since it does not extend the benefit of doubt to the appellant in view of inconsistencies in the testimonies of various witnesses.

Further, he contends that MLC of the victim stated that her hymen was normal and the doctor, who was examined for the prosecution had confirmed that the hymen could be ruptured for other reasons as well. Adding to his contentions, he also states that the victim was actually raped by PW-7 and not by the appellant.

Though, the FSL report supported the case of the prosecution that the victim had suffered sexual assault by the accused.

While recording his statement under Section 313 of CrPC, accused also stated that 3-4 days prior to the incident, a quarrel had broken out between him and the mother of the victim due to which, he had been falsely implicated in the case.

Petitioner’s counsel also submitted that since the physical evidence did not corroborate the charges levelled against the appellant, he ought to be acquitted.

Court’s Decision

High Court stated that no contention was advanced on behalf of the appellant was found to be persuasive. Evidence obtained in this case clearly establishes that the appellant is guilty of the offences for which he was charged.

Court stated that, there is overwhelming evidence to establish that the prosecutrix was recovered from the factory premises of the appellant and the same was closed from outside. Mother of the prosecutrix testified to the aforesaid effect. All the other witnesses in the case corroborated the said fact.

Insofar as the MLC was concerned, Dr Anuradha Tyagi was examined, wherein she stated that it was correct that the hymen of the victim appeared to be normal (externally) and as per P/R examination, no tear or bleeding was found. However, she reiterated that the hymen of the prosecutrix was not found to be intact.

Thus, the Court held that testimonies of witnesses were all consistent and there is little room for entertaining any doubt whether the appellant had committed the offences for which he was charged. Forensic evidence fully establishes the case of the prosecution beyond any pale of doubt.

Hence the present appeal is unmerited and dismissed. [Chhedi Paswan v. State, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 464, decided on 17-02-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Sikkim High Court: A Division Bench of Bhaskar Raj Pradhan and Meenakshi Madan Rai, JJ., while upholding the impugned judgment of the Special Judge explained the elements that amount to “Gang Rape”.

In the present case, appellants were convicted by Special Judge (POCSO) wherein the appellants were found guilty under Section 5(g) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and under Section 376 D of the Penal Code, 1860.

Special judge held that the victim was a 15-year-old minor.

Counsel for the appellants was Birendra Pourali and Assistant Public Prosecutor for the respondent was S.K. Chettri.

Counsel for the appellant submitted that the prosecution had failed to establish that the victim was a minor by leading cogent evidence. Medical evidence led by the prosecution completely belies the allegation that the appellants had committed gang rape on her and therefore her evidence is not reliable.

APP for respondent submitted that failure to find any marks or injuries on the person of the appellants does not lead to an inference that they had not committed the offence and conviction may be based upon the sole testimony of the victim. He further cautioned the Court that it must be sensitive while dealing with the cases involving sexual offences.

PW 8 deposed that the victim disclosed to her that she had been sexually assaulted by the driver of a TATA vehicle, She also deposed that she had accompanied the police and the minor victim to the police of occurrence where the victim had been sexually assaulted.

Victim deposed before the Court and following was her deposition:

“I know the two accused persons who are present before the Court. Few months back, I had gone to Siliguri with one Puran daju (my cousin). At Siliguri I met accused Vodafone at Big Bazaar shopping complex. After being familiar with him I came to Jorethang in his vehicle on the following day. I had spent the night in my cousin?s place at Siliguri. The said accused brought me to Jorethang where I met my aunt. In fact, the handy boy of accused Vodafone was also there when we came to Jorethang from Siliguri. That evening I again met accused Vodafone near Jorethang bridge. He told me that he would drop me to Melli. Accordingly, I boarded his truck and we started proceeding towards Melli. His handy boy was also there. On the way to Melli the accused stopped the truck at one place and asked his handy boy to leave. He then raped me by putting his pishab garney(penis) into my pishab garney(vagina). He did it once. After sometime the other accused came over there in an Ecomate truck. His young handy boy was also with him. Accused Vodafone asked me to get inside that Ecomate truck. The other accused and his handy boy then raped me inside the said truck. Later, while we reached the Melli Checkpost (on Sikkim border) for entering in West Bengal I was spotted by the police. I told the police about the above incidents”

High Court’s Decision

Court stated that if the woman is below the age of eighteen, consent is immaterial. To constitute rape otherwise, consent is vital. If it is a case falling under the POCSO Act, consent is immaterial.

Birendra Pourali’s submission that the prosecution failed to prove that the victim was a minor gather importance. For the said contention, Court stated:

If the defence desired to question the veracity of the information in the birth certificate, they ought to have objected to its exhibition which would have, if taken at the appropriate point of time, enabled the prosecution tendering the evidence to cure the defect and resort to such mode of proof as would be regular. Victim’s statement that she was sixteen was not even questioned during her cross-examination.

Thus, the Court came to the conclusion for the above that the Special Judge accepting the birth certificate as that of the victim and holding that the victim was a minor at the time of the offence brooks no interference.

Bench further laid down the Explanation 2 to Section 375:

“An unequivocal voluntary agreement when the woman by words, gestures or any form of verbal or non-verbal communication, communicates willingness to participate in the specific sexual act: provided that a woman who does not physically resist to the act of penetration shall not by the reason only of that fact, be regarded as consenting to the sexual activity.”

Court referring to the deposition of the victim stated that when she says that she was raped by the appellants there are no reason to doubt the same. More so, in the present case her deposition is corroborated by forensic evidence. Victim being a minor, the question of consent has no relevance.

Further, the Court laid down the definition of Section 376 D that defines gang rape and elaborated the following as the ingredients that constitute the same:

(i) a woman is raped;

(ii) (a) she is raped by one or more persons constituting a group, or (b) she is raped by one or more persons acting in furtherance of a common intention;

Victim’s deposition as mentioned above clearly leads to that the appellants were known to each other and that the common intention was clearly reflected by the element of participation in action at the place of occurrence.

Two vital ingredients necessary for constituting the offence of gang rape being satisfied, the conviction of the appellants under Section 376D IPC cannot be faulted.

Appellants have also been convicted for gang penetrative sexual assault on a child under section 5(g) of the POCSO Act. Conviction of the appellants for the commission of aggravated penetrative sexual assault must also be upheld.

Lastly, the Court stated that, in view of the failure of the prosecution to seek enhancement of the sentence, we are precluded from imposing the fine as mandated. The appeal is thus dismissed in the above terms. [Raj Kumar Darjee v. State of Sikkim, 2019 SCC OnLine Sikk 223, decided on 17-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Prithviraj K. Chavan, J., dismissed the present appeal filed challenging the Judgment passed by Special Judge under Protection of Children from the Sexual Offences Act, 2012 wherein he was convicted under Section 6 of POCSO Act.

Appellant has been convicted of Section 342 of Penal Code, 1860. He came to be acquitted of offences punishable under Section 10 of POCSO Act and under Section 376, 366(A) of IPC.

Facts of the Case

Victim a 5 ½ years old girl went out to play with a small boy in her neighbourhood when the Appellant took the girl to his house on the pretext that he would show her songs on his mobile and later PW 6 (eye-witness) asked PW 3 (relative of victim’s mother) to see what appellant was doing with the victim, when PW 3 peeped in the house she saw that the victim was made to lie down on the ground in a prone position and appellant was lying on her person. Victim told PW3-M that when she went in search of Babu for playing, the appellant took her in the house, bolted the door from inside and then pulled her slacks down and made her lie in prone position on the ground. He put his penis in her anus and was moving it.

It has been stated that as per Rule 33(7) of POCSO Act, the identity of the victim as well as all the family members, relatives, neighbourhood or any other information by which identity of the victim is revealed is required to be concealed.

Investigating Officer laid a charge-sheet under Sections 376, 342, 366A, 377 of PC read with Section 6 and 10 of the POCSO Act. Special Judge after considering the evidence on record and after hearing the prosecution and defence convicted and sentenced the appellant.

By referring to the report of FSL, appellant’s counsel Aniket Vagal, argued that no male DNA was detected in vulval swab or anal swab of the victim.

APP, S.V. Gavand while opposing the contention of the appellant’s counsel submitted that there is no need to refer the medical evidence as the appellant was just stopped from inserting his penis in the anus of the victim. Appellant was about to commit an offence as provided under Section 3 of the POCSO Act. Appellant betrayed the trust of the victim who used to refer him as ‘Dada’. She was in a fiduciary capacity with that of the appellant. Further, it is submitted that this is not a case in which leniency is required to be shown to the appellant.

Decision

High Court on noting the above-discussion stated that, the victim PW2-G called the appellant dada meaning she had full faith and respect towards the appellant who betrayed her trust by molesting her.

Appellant was about to commit aggravated penetrative sexual assault upon PW 2 but due to intervention of PW 3, he could not succeed in his nefarious design and thus the act was in fact about to be accomplished by him since he had already started movements of his penis over the posterior part of the victim.

Appellant did an attempt towards an act of committing aggravated penetrative sexual assault and, therefore, the trial court has rightly appreciated all the circumstances and facts on record by passing an appropriate sentence of imprisonment.

Bench cited the Supreme Court Case – Madan Gopal v. Naval Dubey, (1992) 3 SCC 204, wherein it was held that,

“offenders who are menace to the civilized society should be mercilessly and inexorably punished in the severest terms.”

Relying on the above-stated case the Bench stated that the Court in the above case is loud and clear as to how such offences are required to be dealt with who are menaces to the civilized society and therefore, they should be mercilessly and inexorably punished.

In the present case, there is no question of reformation of the appellant as he was quite a grown-up male who knew the consequences of his act.

Thus in view of the above, the appeal needs to be dismissed and no interference is warranted. [Baburao v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 5720, decided on 20-12-2019]

Business NewsNews

In order to bring about uniform processes across Asset Management Companies (AMCs) in respect of investments made in the name of a minor through a guardian and to enable the efficient transmission of units the following has been decided:

1. Process for Investments made in the name of a Minor through a Guardian

a. Payment for investment by means of Cheque, Demand Draft or any other mode shall be accepted from the bank account of the minor or from a joint account of the minor with the guardian only. For existing folios, the AMCs shall insist upon a Change of Pay-out Bank mandate before redemption is processed.

b. Upon the minor attaining the status of major, the minor in whose name the investment was made, shall be required to provide all the KYC details, updated bank account details including cancelled original cheque leaf of the new account. No further transactions shall be allowed till the status of the minor is changed to major.

c. AMCs shall build a system control at the account set up stage of Systematic Investment Plan (SIP), Systematic Transfer Plan (STP) and Systematic Withdrawal Plan (SWP) on the basis of which, the standing instruction is suspended when the minor attains majority, till the status is changed to major.

2. Process for transmission of Units

a. In order to improve the processing turnaround time for transmission requests, AMCs shall implement image-based processing wherever the claimant is a nominee or a joint holder in the investor folio.

b. AMCs shall have a dedicated, Central Help Desk and a webpage carrying relevant information and instructions in order to provide assistance on the transmission process.

c. AMCs shall adopt a common Transmission Request Form (common fields) and NOC form. All such forms and formats shall be made available on the website of the AMCs, RTAs and AMFI.

d. AMCs shall implement a common set of document requirements for transmission of units to the claimant who are nominees or joint holders in the investor account.

e. AMCs shall implement a uniform process for the treatment of unclaimed funds to be transferred to the claimant including the unclaimed dividends.

f. AMCs shall not accept requests for redemption from a claimant pending completion of the transmission of units in his / her favour.

g. The Stamp duty payable by the claimant with respect to the indemnity bond and affidavit, shall be in accordance with the stamp duty prescribed by law.

AMCs and AMFI shall promote the importance of nomination as a part of its investor education and awareness programmes.
  1. To ensure uniformity across the industry, AMFI is advised to prescribe the forms and formats referred in point 2 (c), common set of documents referred in point 2 (d) and uniform process for treatment of unclaimed funds referred in point 2 (e), within 30 days from date of issuance of this circular and shall mandatorily be followed by all Mutual Funds/AMCs.
  2. This circular is issued in exercise of the powers conferred under Section 11 (1) of the Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, 1992, read with Regulation 77 of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Mutual Funds) Regulations, 1996 to protect the interests of investors in securities and to promote the development of, and to regulate the securities market.


Securities Exchange Board of India

[Circular dt.24-12-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports that minor victim of sexual assault was set on fire by her tormentor resulting in her death in Agartala district of Tripura.

The Commission has issued notices to the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police, Tripura calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks including status of the investigation and any relief granted to the NOK of the deceased.

The Commission has observed that though it is not mentioned in the media reports that whether the aggrieved family or the victim had approached the police authorities with their complaint but the death of a minor girl as a result of a barbaric act done by the accused is a matter of concern for it. Reiterating its displeasure towards increasing incidents of sexual assault of women across the country, the Commission has said that it is awaiting reports from all the States and UTs including Union Ministry of Women and Child Development in the matter.

According to the media reportsd, carried today on the 9-10-2019 that on 28-10-2019, the victim was kidnapped by the accused from her residence and was subjected to sexual abuse. Later, the accused raised a demand of Rs 5 Lakhs in lieu of solemnizing marriage with the victim. Some amount of money was reportedly paid by the family and there was a dispute between the family of the victim and the accused for the remaining money. As mentioned in the news reports, the accused and his mother have been arrested by the police after the incident.


National Human Rights Commission

[Press Release dt. 09-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: Rajarshi Bhardwaj, J., addressed an appeal arising out of a judgment and order of conviction passed by the Additional District and Sessions Judge sentencing the appellant to suffer rigorous imprisonment and fine along with the payment of compensation to the victim for commission of offence punishable under Sections 376 and 511 of Penal Code, 1860.

The present matter pertains to the contentions and facts that the victim during school hours went to use the toilet and at that time the appellant entered into the toilet and committed rape upon the victim girl.

A complaint was filed in regard to the stated prosecution case after which the officer-in-charge initiated the case under Section 376 (2) of the Penal Code, 1860. The accused was arrested and produced before the Court. Charges were framed against the accused under Sections 376 and 511 of the Penal Code.

Tapan Dutta Gupta, Counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant submitted that the case was concocted out of political rivalry and was established by the defence.

Advocate for the State submitted that the version of the victim has been corroborated by other witnesses, the appeal is liable to be dismissed. Some of the statements of the prosecution witnesses are mentioned below in order to understand the victim’s stand better:

  • PW-1, father of the victim stated that on returning from school, victim girl told him that in the school she had gone to attend her nature’s call and that was the time when the accused entered into the latrine and forcibly committed rape upon her.
  • PW-2, Victim herself stated that on the fateful day she went to the latrine of the school accompanied by her elder sister. She forgot to lock the room of the toilet from inside and at that time the accused entered into the toilet room and pressed his penis in her private part and when she started crying, the accused fled away from the spot.
  • PW-5, the Medical officer, stated that the victim girl did not face any intercourse, though, during the examination, swelling was found over both vulva present and reddish discolouration inside labia minora. Such type of injury may be caused if any person tries to insert his penis in the vagina of a girl aged about 6 years.

Therefore, it appears from the evidence on record that the victim girl was a minor on the date of incident.

High Court stated that, although it has been desperately argued that the appellant was not present at the time of the incident, no such plea was raised nor any evidence led to probabilise, such plea of alibi on behalf of the appellant during the trial.

Hence, in view of the above discussion, appellant is found guilty of the offence punishable under Sections 376 and 511 of the penal Code, 1860 and further sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment for 5 years and to pay fine of Rs 4,000 only, in default to suffer simple imprisonment for 6 months is modified to the extent that the appellant was sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment of 5 years and fine of Rs 4,000 in default to suffer simple imprisonment for another 1 month.

Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.[Pratap Dolai v. State of West Bengal, 2019 SCC OnLine Cal 2306, decided on 06-09-2019]