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]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of Manmohan and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal, JJ. dismissed a criminal leave petition filed by the State challenging the order of the Additional Sessions Judge whereby the respondent-accused was acquitted of offences punishable under Sections 376, 366 and 363 IPC along with Section 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.

The father of the victim had lodged a complaint that his minor daughter (aged about 17 years) had not returned home from school. During the course of the investigation, the victim was recovered from the possession of the accused. After completion of investigation, charge sheet wassailed against the accused of the offences as aforementioned. The accused was, however, acquitted by the trial court.

Aashaa Tiwari, APP appearing for the State, submitted that as the victim was a minor at the relevant time, her consent to accompany the accused and to have physical relations with him was of no consequence.

Perusing the statements of the victim, the High Court noted that she has misrepresented her age to be 18 years to the accused. She had also categorically stated that had she not done so, the accused would not have allowed her to accompany him.

It was observed: “The element of mens rea, which is an essential ingredient of Sections 363, 376 IPC is missing. In the present case, it is only because of a misrepresentation by the prosecutrix with regard to her age, which the respondent-accused bonafidely believed to be true that he allowed her to accompany him.”

The Court noted further: “In fact, statement of the prosecutrix clearly negates any charge including Section 6 of POCSO. Consequently, as the respondent-accused had not knowingly committed any offence, none of the charges can be said to have been proven.”

Considering the well-settled law that an acquittal order cannot be lightly interfered with by the Appellate Court, the High Court declined to interfere with the order of the acquittal passed by the trial court. The leave petition was thus dismissed.[State (NCT of Delhi) v. Kaishar Ali, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 9875, decided on 30-08-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Pakistan Supreme Court: A Full Bench of Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, JJ. allowed a criminal appeal against a conviction order under Section 302 (b) of Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 which was passed on the basis of confessional statements.

 Appellants herein were tried before trial court for committing murder of a minor. As the investigation progressed, the accused were hauled up by the police and produced before a Judicial Magistrate when they, one by one, confessed the guilt. They were convicted under Section 302(b) of PPC and sentenced to death. The conviction order was upheld by the Peshawar High Court. Hence, the instant appeal.

The counsels for the appellants, Khalid Mehmood and Zahoor Qureshi, contended that reliance on confessional statements by the Courts below was fraught with multiple errors, heavily impinging upon the principle of safe administration of criminal justice; according to him, the statements were inherently flawed; these were contradicted by prosecution’s own witness, a dichotomy that escaped notice of the courts below.

The Court noted that since the appellants had been handed down the ultimate corporal penalty which was irreversible in nature on the basis of their confessions, the said confessions warranted careful scrutiny.

It was noted that both the appellants appeared before the Magistrate one after another on the same date which was quite intriguing. Both of them conducted themselves in a comfortable unison even in an extreme crisis situation; and both were in tune with the prosecution, which reasonably excluded the hypothesis of voluntary disclosure, free from taints of inducement or persuasion. The Court observed that it appeared to be more of a negotiated settlement rather than a volitional representation as there was a remarkable similarity in both the statements, in terms of sequential order as well as the pattern these were reduced into writing.

The Court observed that The fate of the prosecution’s case is hinged upon confessional statements, made by the convicts before a Magistrate and it is on the basis of their disclosures that they have been handed down the ultimate corporal penalty, irreversible in nature and thus warrants most careful scrutiny.” On overall analysis of the prosecution’s case, it was held that the confessional statements could not be relied upon without potential risk of error. The Court held that, “In the absence of evidentiary certainty, it would be unsafe to maintain the convictions on moral satisfaction that certainly cannot equate with legal proof.”

In view of the above, the appellants were held entitled the benefit of doubt and their appeal was allowed, thus setting aside the impugned judgments.[Muhammad Azhar Hussain v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Pak SC 10, decided on 02-05-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Pakistan: The Division Bench of Qazi Faez Isa and Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, JJ. dismissed a petition challenging assailing the judgment of Peshawar High Court vide which custody of a minor girl was handed over to her mother.

Petitioner herein, father of the minor, submitted that the child did not even recognize her mother and was not ready to go with her. He also relied on the decision of a jirga, which had decided that the custody of child should remain with the petitioner-father.

The Court noted that the petitioner worked as a labourer in Dubai and her stepmother and a divorcee sister of the petitioner looked after the child. The petitioner also had three children from his second wife. However, the respondent had not married again after divorce from the petitioner.

At the outset, the Court opined that a jirga has no legal authority to decide custody of children, and in doing so, it violated the law and Islamic injunctions. A mother cannot be compelled to part with her child by a jirga. Mother cannot be called upon to barter the right to her child’s custody to secure a divorce, nor can a child be used to settle personal scores.

The Court placed reliance on Razia Bibi v. Riaz Ahmad, 2004 SCMR 821 and opined that poverty on the part of a lady is no ground to disentitle her from the custody of minor. It was held that welfare of the minor is of paramount consideration in determining custody, and principles of hizanat must be adhered to unless there are valid reasons not to do so. The dictum in Rubia Jilani v. Zahoor Akhtar Raja, 1999 SCMR 1834 was relied on in this regard.

In view of the above, the petitioner was directed to, immediately and peacefully, handover the minor girl to her mother.[Bat Khan v. Sherin Bibi, Civil Petition No. 809-P of 2018, Order dated 08-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Bench of V.M. Deshpande, J. dismissed an appeal challenging the judgment and order of Additional Sessions Judge whereby the appellant was convicted for offences punishable under Sections 376 and 506 IPC along with Sections 5 and 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.

Appellant was accused of committing the offence of rape and sexual assault on a mentally-retarded minor girl victim after which she became pregnant. After the victim’s pregnancy came to light, she had to undergo an abortion and subsequently a case was filed against the appellant. For the said offence he was tried and convicted by the Additional Sessions Judge and sentenced to suffer imprisonment. Aggrieved thereby, appellant challenged the said judgment in the present appeal on various grounds.

One of the grounds contended by R.M. Patwardhan, Advocate for the appellant was that the DNA report should not be accepted as there was no reason for the medical officer who conducted abortion of the victim’s pregnancy to preserve the aborted foetus for DNA testing in absence of registration of offence against anybody.

Rejecting appellant’s contention as meaningless, the High Court noted Dr Kanchan Gadhe’s presence of mind and commitment towards her duty and opined that preservation of foetus was not unnatural as she knew that abortion was conducted on the minor unmarried girl. Furthermore, relying on Mukesh v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2017 (6) SCC 1, the Court observed, “the DNA report or scientific method to determine the paternity or sexual assault is firmly established. The only challenge for it can be set up that there occurred tampering with the blood sample of the accused at any stage.” Since there was no such challenge in the present case, the DNA report was accepted. Not finding any infirmity in the impugned order, the court dismissed the appeal. [Shaktiman v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 139, dated 29-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: The criminal appeal was filed before a Division Bench of P.K. Jaiswal and Anjuli Palo, JJ. by the accused to set aside the conviction and sentence passed under Section 363 of Penal Code and criminal reference to confirm death penalty awarded by First Addl. Sessions Judge, Nagod for a crime under Section 376(a)(b) of Penal Code.

Accused was convicted and was given death penalty for gruesome rape of a 4-year-old girl. Trial Court had charged the appellant under Sections 363, 376(a)(b) of Indian Penal Code and Section 5(j)(n) of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. Trial Court had found him guilty. Appellant in this appeal challenged the findings of the Trial Court on the ground that there was no direct evidence against him and that its finding was contrary to the law and facts. The question before the court was whether the trial court had rightly convicted accused and whether this case comes under rarest of the rare category. High Court did not find any mistake while examining of the DNA and the testimony of the witnesses was also found to be reliable. Thus, Court viewed that Trial Court had rightly convicted appellant. Thereby, his conviction was maintained. Appellant urged that he was only aged about 28 years and had no previous criminal conviction.

High Court observed that a person who was performing the pious duty of a teacher had to nurture the character and morality in children and not commit a crime against them. Court after considering the facts and circumstances of the case along with the mitigating circumstances concluded that this case comes under the category of the “rarest of the rare case”. Therefore, this appeal was dismissed and sentenced to death penalty was affirmed. [Mahendra Singh Gond v. State of M.P., 2019 SCC OnLine MP 200, dated 25-01-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

High Court of South Africa, Eastern Cape Local Division: This case was filed before a Bench of G.G. Goosen, J. where Court dealt with the sentencing of accused who was convicted for kidnapping, rape and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

The two accused were convicted of kidnapping, robbery and rape. It was found that Accused 1 had already been convicted on 4 occasions. With respect to Accused 1 Court stated that- “He is however not a youth whose callow immaturity might explain his aberrant conduct.” He had experience of the effects of punishment and despite that, it did not cause him to change his behaviour which mandates a heavy punishment. The impact of the crime subjected to the victim, outweighs the personal circumstances of the accused. Accused 2 was a minor and thus was to be dealt with under the Child Justice Act, 2008. Accused 2 was of 16 years of age at the time of the commission of a crime. He had no previous convictions and the life he had been through showed that he was a child used to drugs and in need of care.

High Court found direct sentencing of imprisonment to be appropriate. According to the Act, imprisonment was to be given as a last resort and the Court viewed the case of Accused 2 to be one falling within the scope of imprisonment. [State v. Donovan Heugh, Case No. CC 17 of 2018, dated 25-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Vibhu Bakru, J. allowed the termination of pregnancy of a minor whose fetus had already undergone a gestation period of 22 weeks.

In the present order, it was noted that the petitioner had approached the High Court for direction to respondents in regard of termination of her pregnancy even after being aware of the high risks involved with the same. The Court on interaction with the 16-year old rape victim noted that she insisted on the termination of pregnancy and seemed to be in considerable distress.

Further, the Court noted the observation of Dr Sanjay Agrawal, Director Professor of Psychiatry, who was of the view that the unwanted pregnancy was causing a considerable amount of distress to Ms X. Medical Board had submitted the report which indicated that abortions of about 22 weeks carry a higher risk of mortality and morbidity. The stated risk was explained to the petitioner as well as her father, both of whom were adamant that the pregnancy should be terminated.

Learned Counsel for the petitioner while citing various decisions of Supreme Court including Chanchala Kumari v. Union of India, WP(C) No. 871 of 2017 and Venkatalakshmi v. State of Karnataka, Civil Appeal No. 1538 of 2017, noted that the Court on examining the medical reports had permitted the termination even after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Thus, the High Court keeping in consideration the above-stated allowed the petition and directed for the termination of pregnancy of the minor child. [X v. State (NCT of Delhi),2018 SCC OnLine Del 12891, Order dated 01-12-2018]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

South Africa High Court, Western Cape Division: Two matters came for review before a 2-Judge Bench comprising of DM Thulare AJ; MJ Dolamo J, where the proceedings were held considering the accused as major but they were found to be minor.

One of the accused pleaded guilty and thereby he was convicted under Section 112(1)(a) of the Criminal Procedures Act, 1977. While mitigation of sentences were being held it was brought before the court that the accused was minor as a consequence of which he was released and the matter was postponed for the determination of the correct age of the accused.  The second accused was found guilty and accordingly sentenced where his age was not determined.

The High Court viewed that terminology used in Section 12, 13 and 14 in Part 3 of Chapter 2 of the Child Justice Act, 2008 were not interpreted and applied in the best interests of children. Court with respect to Section 12 observed that police officer after arrest should have treated a youngster as child unless there were other reasons to the contrary. Further, Section 14 states that where the age of accused is uncertain, it is for the presiding officer to hold enquiry to determine same.  It was found that the presiding officer before whom the accused first appeared failed to determine the age of accused. Finding the Magistrate to be correct who said that the wrong determination of date caused prejudice to the accused conviction was liable to be set aside. Therefore, Court ordered the conviction of first accused and sentence on second accused to be set aside and the matter was remitted back to the magistrate for sentencing under Chapter 10 of Child Justice Act, 2008. [State v. B O, 2018 SCC OnLine ZAWCHC 3, dated 02-11-2018]