Bombay High Court: Mangesh S. Patil, J., while upholding the decision of Special Judge elaborated on the Sections of POCSO Act in light of a minor being induced to be involved in the sex trade.
Instant appeal was filed under Section 374 of the Code of Criminal Procedure against the conviction of the appellants for offences punishable under Section 370 read with Section 34 of the Penal Code, 1860, under Section 5 and 6 of the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (PITA) and under Section 4 read with Section 17 of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO).
Appellants are mother and daughter.
PW 4 had received information that the appellants were running a brothel.
During the raid conducted, respondent 2 who was then 17 years of age was found in a room with constable Bahirwal. A specified denomination currency note of Rs 500/- was found in possession of the appellant 2. Five to six used condoms and 200 pieces of unused condoms in a packet were found.
Respondent 2 (victim) and appellants were taken to the Police Station for the offences punishable under Section 366A, 370 372 read with Section 34 of the Penal Code, 1860, Section 3, 4,5, 6 and 7 of the PITA and Section 12 and Section 4 read with Section 17 of the POCSO Act.
Further, appellants were acquitted of the offences punishable under Section 366A and 372 of the Penal Code, 1860, of Section 12 of the POCSO Act and Section 7 of the PITA.
Analysis, Law and Decision
Age of the Victim
Bench observed that when there is ample evidence in the form of school record which duly stands corroborated by the medical age determination test, though the latter is only an approximation, the former being concrete is sufficient to determine and conclude, as has been rightly done by the Special Court that the victim was less than 16 years of age at the relevant time and was, therefore, a child under POCSO Act as also under the PITA.
It was also noted in view of the circumstances and evidence that the victim (PW 1) had apparently willingly succumbed to the sexual exploitation.
Further, at no point of time, the victim seemed to have made any attempt to escape.
Even according to the victim, she was lodged in the house of the appellants for a period of about a month and was subjected to sex twice a day. Not only this but even while narrating the history to the Medical Officer Dr Shahane (PW 6) she disclosed that she was willingly working as a sex worker for a month.
On noting the fact that she was a child within the meaning of Section 2(d) of the POCSO Act and Section 2(aa) of the PITA, her consent became irrelevant, and it was not a consent in the eye of law.
In view of the provisions of Section 29 of the POCSO Act, a presumption regarding commission of the offences under the Act needed to be raised as has been rightly done by the Special Judge. Appellants miserably failed to displace the burden cast upon them.
Coming to the ingredients for the individual offences for which the appellants have been convicted, so far as Section 370 of the Penal Code is concerned, i.e. for trafficking of person, even if it is concluded that since Shantabai had not been arrayed as an accused and therefore there was no evidence in respect of actual sale by her and purchase by the appellants of the victim on overall appreciation of the evidence it is quite apparent that the victim was induced into trade for the obvious monetary gain which is nothing but a trafficking as defined in Clause Sixthly of Sub Section 1 of Section 370 of the IPC.
As per the provisions of Section 5 and 6 of PITA, the former punishes procurement or inducement or taking a person for the sake of prostitution whereas Section 6 is concerned obviously the victim (PW 1) was detained in the house of the appellants with intent that she may have sexual intercourse with the persons who were not her spouse which is sufficient to constitute the offence.
Turning to the offence punishable under Section 17 read with Section 4 of the POCSO Act, Section 17 provides for punishment for abetment of any offence under the POCSO Act. Whereas Section 4 provides for punishment for penetrative sexual assault. Section 3 defines penetrative sexual assault to mean the different acts provided for therein.
Since the victim was made to succumb to the penetrative sexual assault by various customers and the appellants had induced her into that trade, it could easily be concluded that they committed an offence punishable under Section 17 and were rightly convicted and sentenced by the Special Judge.
Therefore, no illegality was found in the impugned judgment and order convicting and sentencing the appellants.
In view of the above discussion, appeal was dismissed. [Sunita v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 1631, decided on 9-08-2021]
Advocates before the Court:
Advocate for the Appellants: Mr Aniket Vagal.
APP for Respondent No. 1/State: Mr S. N. Morampalle.
Advocate for Respondent 2: Mrs Rashmi S. Kulkarni.