Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: P. Velmurugan, J., directs Schools to keep a complaint box to make the victims complain about the sexual assault freely and keys of the same to be kept under the control of Secretary District Legal Services Authority.

Factual background

On the date of occurrence, when PW 2, the victim girl was going to attend School while crossing the appellant’s residence, the appellant/accused invited her to his house and with an intent to assault her sexually saying that he will tell the story of Jesus, sexually assaulted her.

It was stated that the appellant touched the victim girl all over her body, removed the bottom of Churidar, embarrassed her and kissed her in right cheek with sexual intent, which involved physical contact without penetration and further the accused threatened the victim girl to come to his house with an intention to repeat the same on her.

In view of the above set of circumstances, the present case was registered against the appellant.

Victim girl stated that after the above-stated occurrence she went to her classroom and intimated the same to her friend who was examined as PW 7 and she clearly spoke about the offence committed by the appellant.

It was noted that the age of the victim girl was 12 years at the time of occurrence and hence the victim was a child under the definition of Section 2(1)(d) of POCSO Act.

High Court stated that the appellant being the head of Religious Institution committed sexual assault on the victim child, who was aged about 12 years at the time of occurrence. Hence the act of appellant came under Section 9(f) punishable under Section 10 of the POCSO Act.

Court on perusal of the evidence produced, opined that the accused failed to rebut the presumption under Section 29 and 30 of the POCSO Act. Trial Court rightly appreciated the evidence of the prosecution and came to the conclusion that appellant/accused committed an offence under Section 9(1) punishable under Section 10 of the POCSO Act.

Bench dismissed the criminal appeal and upheld the trial Court’s decision.

High Court’s recommendation

Further, the Court expressed that normally female students would get fear in lodging complaints against Teacher or Management of School regarding sexual offences, considering their future, hence Government of Tamil Nadu shall form a committee at every school, consisting of the Social Welfare Officer, the Secretary of District Legal Services Authorities, female Police Official not below the rank of District Superintendent of Police, District Educational Officer, female Psychiatrist and Physician from the Government Hospital.

District Educational Officer may inspect the School once in a month to get grievance of the female students with regard to sexual assault and give confidence to the female children to come forward to make complaints against the sexual offenders, who may be a teaching or non-teaching staff and also the members of the Management of the School. [S. Jayaseelan v. State,  2021 SCC OnLine Mad 2580, decided on 12-07-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Appellant: Mr S. Samuel Raja Pandian for M/s. M.K. Selvakumar

For Respondent: Mrs T.P. Savitha Government Advocate (Crl.Side)

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: Sanjeev Kumar, J., granted bail to the applicant in arrested in a rape case. While clarifying the distinction between an attempt to rape and preparation to attempt rape, the Bench stated,

“There is fine distinction between preparation and attempt to commit offence and the different between the two lies primary in the greater degree of determination and it is, therefore, necessary to be proved in an offence of attempt to commit rape that the accused has gone beyond the stage of preparation.”

The alleged facts of the case were that the victim, about 10 years and nine months of age had gone to the house of the applicant for buying mobile charger as he deals with mobile accessories. The allegations against the applicant were that he took the victim to the attic of the house, gave her mobile lead and thereafter gagged her mouth with a tape, took off her trousers and also removed his own trousers and made an attempt to rape her. However, in the meanwhile, younger brother of the petitioner reached the spot. It was, however, stated by the victim that she covered her legs with her shirt and the brother of the petitioner could not see her. A case for offences under Sections 376, 354, 511 IPC and Section 8 of POCSO Act was registered and the victim was subjected to medical check-up, according to which no intercourse had taken place nor was there any mark of violence on the body or any private part.

It was contended by the applicant that he had been falsely implicated in the crime, by one Rafiq Ahmed Sheikh and his family, who belong to a different sect of Islam, harbour ill will against the petitioner and had, with a view to settle scores, lodged a false and frivolous FIR and even accepting the contents of the FIR as gospel truth, no offence under Section 376/511 IPC or under Section 8 of POCSO Act was made out.

Indecent Assault v. Attempt to Rape

  1. Whether the act of the petitioner taking off the trousers of the victim as also is own trousers would amount to an attempt to rape?

In Tarkeshwar Sahu v. State of Bihar, (2006) 8 SCC 560, the Supreme Court had held that, “The point of distinction between an offence to commit rape and to commit indecent assault is that there should be some action on the part of the accused which would show that he is just going to have sexual connection with her.”

Thus, the Bench opined that there is fine distinction between preparation and attempt to commit offence and the different between the two lies primary in the greater degree of determination and it is, therefore, necessary to be proved in an offence of attempt to commit rape that the accused has gone beyond the stage of preparation. In the instant case, the petitioner had allegedly stripped the victim naked and had also taken off his trousers. This was, thus, an effort of making preparation for committing an attempt. Without there being any further act committed by the petitioner, the conclusion could not be made that the petitioner intended to commit rape or that the act attributed to the petitioner amount to an attempt to commit rape. Therefore, prima facie, Section 511 IPC would not be attracted and it could, at best, be a case of indecent assault punishable under Section 354 IPC.

  1. Whether the offence under Section 8 of POCSO Act was prima facie made out?

Section 7 of the POCSO Act defines “Sexual Assault” as:

“7. Sexual assault.—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 which involves physical contact without penetration is said to commit sexual assault.”

Hence, going by the statement of the victim, it was held to be abundantly clear that the act of the applicant taking off the trousers of the girl and also taking off his own trousers was an act with sexual intent, which involved physical contact without penetration and, therefore, would amount to committing sexual assault punishable under Section 8. Therefore, the Bench stated that the applicant was accused of committing indecent assault but also seem to have committed sexual assault defined under Section 7 of the POCSO Act.

 Maintainability of Successive Bail Application

On the maintainability of the successive bail application after the dismissal of the same the Trial Court, the Bench stated that under Section 439 of the CrPC, the High Court and the Court of Sessions have concurrent jurisdiction to grant bail in case a person is in custody in connection with the commission of offence of the nature specified in Section 437(3) of CrPC. Hence, if a person moves the Court of Sessions for grant of bail and his bail plea is rejected, he shall be entitled to file a fresh bail application before the High Court on the same grounds. However, while doing so, he may also point out the illegality or infirmity in the order of learned Sessions Judge rejecting his bail plea which was met by the applicant while alleging that the rejection order passed by the Trial Court was cryptic and did not dwell upon the well-established parameters to be taken into consideration while considering bail plea in non-bailable offences.

Conclusion

In the light of the above, after analyzing the statement of the victim in light of the definition of rape under Section 375 IPC, the Bench held that indisputably, the act of applicant did not, by any stretch of reasoning, amount to rape. Further noticing that the applicant was in custody since 16-12-2020 and that the investigation in the matter had been completed; the Bench opined that the purpose of arrest had been well served. Hence, the petitioner was granted bail subject to him furnishing personal bond in the amount of Rs.50,000 and two sureties of the like amount to the satisfaction of the Trial Court.[Fayaz Ahmad Dar v. UT of J&K, 2021 SCC OnLine J&K 463, decided on 12-07-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearance by:

For the Applicant: N.H.Kuchai, Advocate.

For UT of J&K: Asif Maqbool, Dy. AG vice and Mr. Mir Suhail, AAG

Case BriefsDistrict Court

District and Sessions Court at Panaji: After a trial which went on for 7 years 2 months and 25 days, Kshama M. Joshi, Additional Sessions Judge, Mapusa, acquitted Tarun Tejpal, former Editor-in-Chief of Tehelka, who was accused of committing rape on a journalist working with Tehelka. The court gave benefit of doubt to accused, noting major lapses in investigation and major contradictions/improvements in testimony of the prosecutirx. The incident is of 2013 which allegedly happened during the annual THiNK Fest of Tehelka organised in Goa.

Allegations against the accused

The prosecution’s case was that between 7th and 11th November, 2013 the THiNK Fest was organised by Tehelka Magazine in Goa. It is alleged that during that fest, Tarun Tejpal, the then Editor-in-Chief of Tehelka, had sexually assaulted a female journalist associated with the magazine. It is alleged that he committed the offence of wrongful restraint/confinement, sexual harassment and rape.

The prosecutrix had alleged that on 7-11-2013 (one of the nights of the event) on the pretext of “waking up the American actor Robert De Niro” (the Chief Guest at the festival, for whom the prosecutrix was chaperoning), the accused took her to one of the guest lifts of Hotel Grand Hyatt where he wrongfully confined the prosecutrix using force against her wish and committed rape on her. Further, on the next night of 8-11-2013, the accused took her to another guest lift and again sexually assaulted her.

On completion of police inquiry, the trial court framed charges against the accused of offences punishable under Sections 354, 354-A, 354-B, 376(2)(f), 376(2)(k), 341 and 342 IPC.

Defence of the accused

Case of the accused was of total denial. He submitted that no such incident as alleged took place and that there was a drunken banter between him and the prosecutrix.

Trial Court’s decision

The Additional Sessions Judge of the District and Sessions Court at Panaji determined as many as six questions to return a finding of Not Guilty in favour of the accused. The court answered five out the six questions in favour of the accused:

(a) Whether accused committed rape as defined in Section 375(b) and (d) IPC?

Answered in negative, in favour of the accused.

(b) Whether accused used criminal force to outrage modesty of the prosecutrix?

Answered in negative, in favour of the accused.

(c) Whether accused had physical contact and made advances involving sexual overtures causing sexual harassment to the prosecutrix?

Answered in negative, in favour of the accused.

(d) Whether accused used criminal force with intention of disrobing the prosecutrix?

Answered in negative, in favour of the accused.

(e) Whether accused was in a position of trust or authority and in a position of control or dominance over the prosecutrix?

Answered in positive, against the accused.

(f) Whether the prosecutrix was wrongfully confined in the lift by the accused?

Answered in negative, in favour of the accused.

Law and Analysis (reasons given by the court)

1. Burden of proof

At the very outset, the court recorded that the burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offences as charged, and that burden does not shift.

2. Victim’s testimony in a rape trial and its probative value

The court noted the settled position of law that the conviction of the accused in cases of rape or sexual harassment can be based on the sole testimony of the victim if the court finds that her deposition is of sterling quality which inspires confidence and is absolutely trustworthy, and that immoral character or previous sexual experiences of the victim is not relevant for deciding such cases.

After this, the court noted that the victim is well educated, a journalist well conversant with amendments to IPC after Nirbhaya’s case and who has dealt with issues relating to offences against women including rape and sexual assaults. Based on deposition of prosecution witnesses, it was noted that the prosecutrix is extremely capable, intelligent and independent person.

2.1. Possibility of doctoring of events with help of experts

According to the court, there are many facts on record which create doubt on truthfulness of the prosecutrix. There was a delay in lodging FIR and the prosecutrix refused to go for medical examination. She was in touch with lawyers even prior to drafting the complaint and sending to the Managing Editor of Tehelka. It has been recorded by the court that “Advocate Rebecca John“, among others, was guiding the prosecutrix about the course of action. It is also recorded that the prosecutrix was in contact with “Advocate Indira Jaisingh” (who is a friend of stepmother of the prosecutrix and whose number is saved by the name of Brahmastra).

The court, after discussing as above, concluded that:

“With the help of experts, there may be a possibility of doctoring of events or adding of incidents. Advocate for the accused has this rightly submitted that the deposition of the prosecutrix has to be scrutinised in that angle.”  

2.2. CCTV footage

After recording the horrific details provided by the prosecutrix about all that took place inside the lift of Hotel Grand Hyatt on the night of 7-11-2013, the court recorded that:

The CCTV footage does not support the statement that she was in shock or trauma and blinking in tears.

2.3. False/inconsistent statements

Based on her statement regarding her complaint on a previous occasion sometime in 2012 when she along with her friends was allegedly molested by a police officer, the court further recorded that:

“[Prosecutrix] states that she did not approach the police immediately after the first incident [at the THiNK Fest 2013] as she was too afraid of the police which show that the victim is making a false statement that she is afraid of the police which is clear from the incident narrated by her which took place in Delhi against the police officer.”

The court also concluded that the prosecutrix had made inconsistent statements. Scrutiny of evidence of the prosecutrix, according to the court, revealed several discrepancies/changes in her version, each constituting either material omissions and contradictions or improvements in her original narrative which was given and continually shifting details of the account she had proffered.   The court was also of the view that the CCTV footage did not support her statements.

2.4. Preparing a strong case

Noting that the prosecutrix pressured the Managing Editor of Tehelka to submit an apology on her terms on a claim that it would bring closure to the incident, the court formed an opinion that:

“However, the WhatsApp records show the [the prosecutrix] had already enlisted a battery of friends and networks to release such material on social media the moment the apology reached her. It is evident that the prosecutrix obtained apologies of accused from [the Managing Editor] in support of her accusation before the prosecutrix went public.”

3. Flirtatious and sexual conversations

Referring to WhatsApp messages between the accused and the prosecutrix, the court concluded that she did not contradict that both of them were drunk and it was nothing but a drunken banter, as suggested by the accused. This non-denial by the prosecutrix of the accused’s assertion gave adverse inference against her.

The accused in his defence stated that in fact it was the prosecutrix who was talking about her intimate escapades with Bob Geldof, Irish singer and a former speaker at THiNK 2012,  and also that how she was attracted towards the accused.

The court noted that:

“… thousands of her WhatsApp chats … provide a glaring proof of the prosecutrix’s conversations with a wide range of people. … The messaging record shows that it was entirely in the norm for the prosecutrix to have such flirtatious and sexual conversations with friends and acquaintances.”

Therefore, concluded that court, that her chats and her propensity to indulge in sexual conversations with friends and acquaintances, as well as her admission that the accused was talking about sex or desire, proves that the accused and the prosecutrix had a flirtatious conversation on the night of 7-11-2013.

4. Lying about intimate relationships

The court referred to the prosecutrix’s statement which, according to the court, was a brazen attempt at concealing her highly intimate and candid relationship with one N, a defence witness. Her chats with N, as also N‘s own statement, revealed that they were close friends and have had an intimate relationship.

The court here clarified that such evidence/chats were referred not for the purpose of proving her character but only to show that she was lying and that she twists and manipulates truth as she did by significantly understating the intimacy of her relationship with N. According to the court, it was difficult to believe that the prosecutrix is a truthful and reliable witness,

5. Evidence of N

The court extensively referred to the evidence given by N, prosecutrix’s friend and a defence witness, which contradicted the evidence of prosecutrix in material particulars. N was the first person who the prosecutrix met after the incident, but the investigation officer failed to record his statement nor investigate him. Hence, in court’s opinion, the evidence of N was relevant and admissible under Section 6 (facts forming part of same transaction) of the Evidence Act.

6. Glaring contradictions not expected from educated journalist

The court compared the email (complaint) of the prosecutrix sent to Tehelka’s Managing Editor with her statement under Section 161 CrPC, and noted “material contradiction”. In her email, the prosecutrix stated that “she picked up her underwear” and began walking out of the elevator. Saying that she picked up her underwear means that it was taken off the body and was not just pulled down. Taking it off was not possible as that would require lifting up of her legs. While in her statements under Section 161 and 164 CrPC, she stated that “she pulled her underwear” and began walking out.

Such “glaring contradictions“, said the court, “cannot be expected from educated journalist like [the prosecutrix] and forces the court not to believe the incident of rape“.

7. No revelation to prosecution witnessess

The court noted the evidence of a few prosecution witnessess who said that the prosecutrix only told them that accused forced his tongue in her throat, grabbed/attempted to pull her underwear and asked the colour of it. There was no accusation of removing her underwear, and penetrating her vagina with tongue/fingers.

The court said that if the rape on the prosecutrix at all happened, why she did not reveal or atleast hint about the same to the abovementioned prosecution witnesses. Also, the version disclosed by the prosecutrix to these witnessess was not at all consistent with the case she has now put up. In fact, this is inconsistent with the version of prosecutrix herself.

8. Not showing emails to court

The prosecutrix was asked whether she could show her email account to the court to which she denied. She stated that it was invasion of her right to privacy. In court’s opinion, the statement of the prosecutrix that she would not show the email to the court shows that she wants to hide something and thus she cannot be called reliable and trustworthy and evidence cannot be held to be of sterling quality.

9. Absence of injury

The court noted that the prosecutrix claimed to have physically resisted the accused with all her force and that she was constantly struggling. However, she admitted that she did not receive any injury out of the incident. According to the court, “it is not believable that the prosecutix would throw up such resistance and would not suffer any injury on her body“.

10. Narrative of extreme implausibility

Noting the position (where and how) the prosecutrix and the accused were standing in the lift, the court wondered that if she was not in a conversation with the accused and her mouth was not open, and she was not facing the accused, would it be possible for the accused to pry her mouth?  It was observed by the court that:

“If the prosecutrix had held her jaw firmly closed, how it would be possible for the accused to put his tongue in her mouth. The prosecutrix stated that she pushed the accused as hard as she could and she did so instinctively and reflexively whenever she pushed him. If the prosecutrix pushed the accused instinctively and reflexively, why wouldn’t she push the accused before he kissed when she was pushed against the wall or atleast put her hands in between to prevent the accused from coming close.”

This, in court’s opinion, was a narrative of extreme implausibility and it was not possible to believe that the prosecutrix, a woman who is aware of laws, intelligent, alert and physically fit (a Yoga trainer) would not push or ward off the accused.

11. No warning to the accused and no fight back

The court noted that in her evidence, the prosecutrix clearly stated that she regularly pushed away the accused. Then it was also noted that the prosecutrix had stated that she did not warn or intimidate the accused when he went down on his knees as she claims that he was more powerful than her. She also admitted that she did not fight back against the accused when he began to disrobe her during the incident.

According to the court, the voluntary statement of the prosecutrix that she was too scared of the accused and still in shock could not be believed. It was concluded by the court that:

“Hence, the allegation of rape and sexual assault cannot be said to have been proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt.”

 12. No confession by accused

The prosecution submitted that in his apology given to the prosecutrix, the accused did not deny sexual molestation and, thus, has admitted the allegations made against him.

On this, the court discussed as to what is confession. It said that ordinarily, confession by a person is an act of admitting that he has done something wrong or illegal. In court’s opinion, the apology email sent by the accused reveal that there was absolutely no admission/confession of any incriminating fact even remotely suggesting sexual assault by the accused on the prosecutrix. That email is not a reply to any previous email sent to the accused by the prosecutrix containing any allegations of sexual assault, to claim that since the allegations were not denied, it amounted to a confession. In fact, it was not an apology but an attempt to assuage any discomfort the prosecutrix might have post facto felt. The court then went on to observe:

“Further, her statement that the accused offered to apologise to her mother and partner for the same certainly do not make out a case of sexual molestation, and it is clear that the prosecutrix is manipulating an interpretation to suit her case.”

13. Calculated actions of prosecutrix

The court noted that the prosecutrix had recorded her calls with Tehelka’s Managing Editor and these conversations were copied on DVDs which were submitted. According to the court:

“It is important to note that since she failed to inform [the Managing Editor] that she was recording the conversation – which means she could control anything she herself said in the conversation, but the other party to the call was left at the mercy of her manipulation. This is also a clear indicator of the calculated nature of her actions.”

In any event, said the court, such conversation was not relevant against the accused as he was not a party to the conversation.

14. Prohibition of Sections 53-A and 146 of the Evidence Act

Following the prohibition prescribed in Sections 53-A and 146 of the Evidence Act, the court decided to gloss over some WhatsApp chats and questions asked to the prosecutrix as well as several wintessess. Sections 53-A and 146 prohibit the evidence of general moral character and previous sexual experiences of the victim in certain cases (including cases of rape) where consent of the victim is in question.

15. The lift and the CCTV footage

The court noted certain facts regarding the lift where the incident allegedly took place. Firstly, the prosecutrix had stated that the accused kept pressing buttons on the lift panel to keep it in circuit without doors of the lift opening. To this, after perusing the evidence, the court concluded that much prior to the cross-examination of the prosecutrix, there was unequivocal evidence that the lift simply could not be kept in circuit by pressing buttons on the lift panel preventing the doors from opening at any floor, as claimed by the prosecutrix. Further, the prosecutrix did not recollect how many times the lift went up and down during the two minutes when she was being assaulted, thereby implicitly not denying the fact that the lift was in motion, and creating even more ambiguity about the lift being in motion or stationary.

However, it was noted by the court that the CCTV footage of the ground floor clearly showed that the guest lift was in motion during the two minutes and the doors of the lift opened at least twice on the ground floor.

16. Investigation lapse    

The court made several observations regarding lapses in investigation, including improper inspection of functioning of the lift where the crime allegedly took place. The court went to the extent of observing that the Investigating Officer deliberately concealed empirical evidence of the true functioning of the emergency red button of the lift from the court though available, as it contradicted the version of the prosecutrix and the prosecution case.

Prosecution’s case was that the accused pressed the red button for preventing the doors from opening. It was attempted to show that the red button of the lift was disabled after the incident, hence its exact functioning could not be inspected. To this, the court said that if documentation was created regarding disabling of the emergency red button by Hotel Grand Hyatt and Mitsubishi, it was quite strange that all documents relating to same would go missing both from Hotel Grand Hyatt and Mitsubishi.

All in all, the court concluded that prosecution’s case that the accused prevented the lift door from opening and that he wrongfully confined the prosecutrix, was not proved.

17. Destruction of most crucial CCTV footage

The accused took the defence that he and the prosecutrix were not in the lift during the relevant two minutes, but had exited the lift on the first floor. To prove this, CCTV footage of the first floor of guest lifts of 7-11-2013 (the night of the alleged incident) was most vital to the accused. On the day of registration of FIR, i.e. 22-11-2013, itself, the accused had demanded that police should procure such CCTV footage from the hotel, which would establish his innocence.

Also, there was ample evidence to prove that there was in fact a CCTV outside the guest lifts of the first floor. Not only this, but the IO (as well as several other witnesses) also admitted to have seen the CCTV footage of all floors including that of the first floor. But on being asked as to what she saw in the footage of the first floor, the IO stated that she could not recollect.

The further course of action adopted by the her made it clear to the court as to how the IO went about selectively retaining only the ground and the second floor footage, and completely destroying the first floor CCTV footage of the guest lifts in which the alleged crime took place.

It was recorded that if the CCTV footage of first floor was viewed on 29-11-2013, then where did it disappear and there is absolutely no explanation to this from the prosecution. There was no reliable proof that the DVR was sealed on 29-11-2013 which creates even further possibility for tampering with the DVR. The court concluded that:

“It can be said that because the footage of the first floor would have wholly destroyed the prosecution’s case, [the Investigating Officer] sought to keep out the relevant footage for the first floor and render it unavailable. …

[The] only conclusion that can be drawn is that the Investigation Officer tampered with and destroyed the CCTV footage of the first floor guest lifts … since it would conclusively corroborate the defence of the accused.”

18. Not using possible escapes

The court found it surprising to believe that when the accused had assaulted the prosecutrix on the night of 7-11-2013, then why did she again follow him to the lift the very next night of 8-11-2013. According to her, the accused seemed to know how to stall the elevator at his will and she was afraid that he would take her into a room this time. The court said:

“Despite this so-called fear, [the prosecutrix] chose to follow him back to the elevator and does not use any possible escapes that are available to her.”

19. Conduct of  prosecutrix not natural of a sexual assault victim

The court was not amused by the conduct of the prosecutrix after the alleged incident which was repeated on the night of 8-11-2013. Firstly, she did not report about the incident to Tehelka’s Managing Editor even when she had a chance of meeting her alone in the VIP lounge. Also, in photographs taken shortly after the alleged assault, the prosecutrix looks in a happy and cheerful mood, and did not look distressed or traumatised in any manner whatsoever.

According to the court, this unnatural conduct of the prosecutrix is relevant under Section 8 of the Evidence Act. The prosecutrix admitted to have been updating the accused about her location via WhatsApp messages even after the alleged assault. The court said:

“[If] the prosecutrix had recently again been sexually assaulted by the accused and was terrified of him and not in a proper state of mind, why would she report to the accused and disclose to him her location when she could have reported to N, S and P, all of whom she was reporting and updating on a regular basis.”

It was recorded that the prosecutrix sending messages to the accused proactively, without any attempt by him to ask her where she was, and her sending the same message thrice in a span of very few minutes clearly establishes that she was not traumatised nor terrified of being located or found out by the accused, and belies the prosecution case that immediately before the said messages, the accused had sexually assaulted the prosecutrix again.

The court concluded:

“It is extremely revealing that the prosecutrix’s account neither demonstrates any kind of normative behaviour on her own part – that an prosecutrix of sexual assault on consecutive two nights might plausibly show, nor does it demonstrate any such behaviour on the part of the accused.”

20. Omission to record evidence of K

K was an integral member of THiNK 2013 production team. The prosecutrix stayed the night of 9-11-2013 at Hotel Grand Hyatt in the production room allotted to K. Firstly, in court’s view, this exposed the fact that the prosecutrix had no problem freely moving about the hotel where the accused was also staying. Then, K has written a letter to the IO to share information related to the case. He said that he had known the prosecutrix for some time, and that he had information regarding the details and mental state of the prosecutrix during the festival, particularly on the night of 9-11-2017.

However, the IO despite receiving the said letter, did not record the statement of K. The court said that the IO dealt with the material in a casual manner and failed to even record the statement, let alone probe, verify and investigate all material potentially available in order to arrive at the truth.

21. Using allegation as a necessary escape for her peace of mind

The prosecutrix had stated that after the conclusion of THiNK 2013, she had to stay back in Goa before going home as she was traumatised and also because her mother along with her colleagues would be staying at her flat in Mumbai for a couple of days. But, the court looked at certain evidence which included her WhatsApp chats and found that the prosecutrix had a prior plan to stay in Goa with D, her Russian boyfriend, before and after the event.

The court concluded:

“[The] prosecutrix had always planned to stay in Goa with D post THiNK and is only using allegation of sexual assault to make it appear like a necessary escape for the sake of her peace of mind when it was always a pre-planned, pre-meditated trip.”

Also, the fact that after the event, the prosecutrix stayed with two of her friends at a hotel in Goa, as asserted by her, was found not proved.

22. Faulty investigation

The court had a long discussion about the material lapses and omissions on the part of Investigating Officer, some of which are mentioned above. It was also noted that the IO was also the complainant in the case (the police had initiated suo motu inquiry based on reports in media), even when there were other lady officers who could have conducted the investigation.

The court was of the opinion that:

“The settled proposition that the acquittal of accused cannot result due to defects in the investigation cannot be disputed, However, a duty is also cast on the investigating officer to conduct fair investigation in the matter to bring out the truth.”

Conclusion

The court held that deposition of the prosecutrix shows improvements and material contradictions, omissions and change of versions which does not inspire confidence. And that the accused ought to be given benefit of doubt as there is no corroborative evidence supporting allegations made by the prosecutrix. The prosecution failed to discharge the burden to prove guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.

The accused was, therefore, acquitted of the offences punishable under Sections 376(2)(f), 376(2)(k), 354, 354-A, 354-B, 341 and 342 IPC. [State v. Tarunjit Tejpal, Sessions Case No. 10 of 2014, decided on 21-5-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Manoj Kumar Ohri, J., stressed the reliability of the child victim’s testimony in a sexual assault case and upheld the trial court’s decision.

Instant appeal was preferred under Section 374(2) read with Section 383 CrPC. Appellant was convicted under Section 6 of the POCSO Act in 2013.

Facts

‘X’ was 12 years old at the time of the alleged incident and the accused was her stepfather. It was stated that Accused gave beatings to the brothers of ‘X’ and later removed the clothes of ‘X’ and his own and penetrated his urinal part in the vagina of Ms ‘X’.

Analysis

In the present matter, Bench noted that the child victim stated that while the appellant was doing wrong things with her Mohd. Rafiq had seen them from the hole of the door and called her name. She opened the bolt of the door and Mohd. Rafiq gave beatings to the appellant and called the police. The child victim also identified the appellant.

In so far as the testimony of the child victim is concerned, it has been repeatedly held that if the testimony of the child victim inspires confidence, it is sufficient to record the conviction.

Bench stated that Courts should find no difficulty to act on the testimony of a victim of sexual assault alone to convict an accused where her testimony inspires confidence and is found to be reliable. [Refer: State of Punjab v. Gurmit Singh, (1996) 2 SCC 384]

High Court observed that, on perusal of the statements made by the child victim during investigation and the trial show that she had consistently stated that on the night of the incident, the child victim along with her siblings had gone to sleep in the house of their neighbour from where they were called by the appellant.

Thereafter, both her brothers after being beaten, were sent upstairs and thereafter, the appellant removed her clothes as well as his own clothes and inserted his male organ and committed rape upon her. The child victim had also stated that the appellant had inserted his male organ in her mouth. She had also stated that the appellant had committed the offence two-three times earlier also.

Child Victim’s Testimony — Reliability?

The statement of the child victim to the effect that an incident had occurred on the intervening night of 25th and 26th find support not only from the testimony of her two minor younger brothers ‘R’ and ‘A’ but also from the testimony of Mohd. Rafiq.

Court observed that the statements of the child victim made during the investigation and the trial were consistent about the incident and role of the appellant. Therefore, Court concurred with the finding of the trial court that the child victim’s testimony was trustworthy, reliable and admissible.

As per Section 29 of the POCSO Act, there is presumption regarding the guilt of the accused and the appellant failed to dislodge the statutory presumption under the said Section.

Hence, the impugned judgment and order on sentence are upheld.

Lastly, the Court added that State is directed to provide compensation to the victim in view of the Delhi Victim Compensation Scheme, 2015 within a period of 2 months from the date of passing of this Judgment.[Sunil Kumar v. State of NCT of Delhi, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 2391, decided on 25-05-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Appellant: Mr Anwesh Madhukar, Advocate (DHCLSC) alongwith Ms. Prachi Nirwan, Advocate

For the Respondent: Mr Ashok Kr. Garg, APP for State

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: Birendra Kumar, J., while addressing the matter stated that the present judgment as well as the Trial Court’s Judgment against which the appeal was filed required to be forwarded to the Director, Bihar Judicial Academy to ensure proper academic training to the judicial officers to make them conversant with the correct legal proposition.

Adding to the above, Bench expressed that Chief Justice may deem it proper that the trial judge who passed the impugned judgment needs special training at the Judicial Academy.

Appellant was charged under Section 376 of Penal Code, 1860 and Section 6 of the POCSO Act.

Trial Judge convicted the appellant for offence under Section 18 of the POCSO Act for the reason that no case of aggravated penetrative sexual assault was made out rather a case of attempt to commit penetrative sexual assault was proved against the appellant.

In the present appeal, Trial Court’s decision was challenged.

As per the facts of the case, appellant forcefully established a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl. The further allegation is that the appellant lifted her and was carrying her to commit her murder, but the family members came, and the appellant was apprehended and was handed over to the police.

Bench noted that none of the doctors who had occasion to examine the victim were produced as witness during the trial.

Prosecution’s report was not a substantive piece of evidence unless the expert appeared before the Court and supported the medical performance done by them. Therefore, no evidence was present in the case. Hence the impugned judgment of conviction was fit to be set aside.

High Court noted that the Trial Court Judge referred to Sanskrit shloka and Ghazals of Late Jagjit Singh while awarding the sentence against the appellant.

Bench expressed that Trial Judge especially a Judge having power to award death sentence must have correct knowledge of legal principles and zeal to its proper application while exercising the most onerous responsibility of taking decision on the life and liberty of the person before him.

Further adding to the above, Court stated that lack of knowledge of legal principles leads to miscarriage of justice and unnecessary harassment to the parties to the litigation. Bias and prejudices, conjectures and surmises and personal views contrary to the material on the record have no place in the court of law.

Court held that the trial Judge accepted the conflicting prosecution case as disclosed in the statement of the prosecutrix under Sections 154 and 164 CrPC for recording conviction without appreciating the fact that the aforesaid were not a substantive piece of pieces of evidence and the evidence brought during the trial did not disclose the commission of any offence or identity of the perpetrator of the offence.

Hence the impugned judgment and sentence was set aside. [Deepak Mahto v. State of Bihar, 2021 SCC OnLine Pat 770, decided on 12-04-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Appellant/s: Mr N. K. Agrawal, Sr. Advocate. Mr Vijay Anand, Advocate.

For the Respondent/s: Mr Zeyaul Hoda, APP

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Minnesota: While deciding instant matter wherein the Court had to determine whether the appellant committed a third-degree criminal sexual conduct; i.e. sexual penetration with another person when the actor knows or has reason to know that the complainant is ‘mentally incapacitated’; Justice Paul Thissen held that the legislative definition of ‘mentally incapacitated’ as stated in Minn. Stat. Section 609.341, sub-division 7 (2020), does not include a person who is voluntarily intoxicated by alcohol.

Background

 J.S. was intoxicated after drinking alcohol and taking prescription narcotics. She went to a bar with a friend but was denied entry due to her intoxication. The appellant Francios Momolu Khalil approached J.S. outside of the bar and invited her to accompany him to a supposed party at a house. After arriving at the house, J.S. passed out and woke up to find Khalil penetrating her vagina with his penis. J.S. contacted the Minneapolis police department to report the incident. Upon conducting an investigation Khalil was charged with one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a mentally incapacitated or physically helpless complainant.

The District Court jury sought to clarify whether it was sufficient that J.S. voluntarily consumed the alcohol or whether Khalil or another person had to have administered the alcohol to J.S. without her agreement for her to qualify as mentally incapacitated. Upon perusal and interpretation of the relevant law, the jury found Khalil to be guilty of third degree criminal sexual conduct.

Minn. Stat. Section 609.341, sub-division 7 (2020) provides that ‘mentally incapacitated’ means that a person under the influence of alcohol, a narcotic, anesthetic, or any other substance, administered to that person, without the person’s agreement, lacks the judgment to give a reasoned consent to sexual contact or sexual penetration.

The issue before the Court was regarding the proper interpretation of ‘mentally incapacitated’ and whether “administered to that person without the person’s agreement” includes that a person can be mentally incapacitated under the statute when such person voluntarily ingests alcohol, or whether the alcohol must be administered to the person without his or her agreement.

Contentions

The State contended that ‘mentally incapacitated’ means that a person under the influence of alcohol, however, consumed, lacks the judgment to give a reasoned consent to sexual contact or sexual penetration.

The State also asserted that Khalil’s reading of the statute is incorrect because people normally do not speak of “administering” alcohol in everyday speech. It is not uncommon, however, for the word “administer” to be paired with the word “alcohol” in the context of criminal sexual conduct statutes.

The State further argued that the word “any” in the phrase “any other substance” breaks the link between the qualifier “administered to that person without the person’s agreement” and the nouns alcohol, narcotic, and anesthetic. 

Per contra, the appellant argued that ‘mentally incapacitated’ means that a person under the influence of alcohol, administered to that person without the person’s agreement, lacks the judgment to give a reasoned consent to sexual contact or sexual penetration.

Observations

The Court’s analysis centered on the principles vis-à-vis interpretation of statutes. The Court observed that the issue regarding interpretation of Minn. Stat. Section 609.341, sub-division  7 (2020) has arisen only because of the District Court’s instruction to the jury to interpret ‘mentally incapacitated’. The Court stated that, “Although district courts enjoy “considerable latitude in selecting jury instructions,” the instructions “must fairly and adequately explain the law of the case and not materially misstate the law”.

It was observed that the purposes of statutory interpretation is to “ascertain and effectuate the intention of the legislature” and to reflect a structural understanding that legislators are the elected representatives of the people and legislative bodies are institutionally better positioned than courts to sort out conflicting interests and information surrounding complex public policy issues.

The Court noted that the text, structure, and punctuation of the Legislature’s one-sentence definition of ‘mentally incapacitated’ supports the appellant’s interpretation, namely that-  a person is mentally incapacitated only if under the influence of alcohol administered to the person without the person’s agreement.The sentence is structured as an easily digestible series of similar nouns that describe intoxicating substances (alcohol, narcotic, anesthetic, or any other substance) followed by a qualifier (“administered to that person without the person’s agreement”) that sensibly applies to each noun”.

The Court noted that it takes modest mental energy “to process the individual nouns in the list present in the definition of mentally incapacitated, making it easy to apply the qualifier across them all”.

The Court pointed out that it was non convinced with the State’s interpretation that the phrase “administered to that person without the person’s agreement” should not be read to apply to alcohol – “Significant flaw in this argument is that the State plucks the single word “administered” out of the context of the entire phrase ‘administered to that person without the person’s agreement’”. The State erred in isolating the word ‘administered’ from the rest of the qualifier which is also demonstrated when one considers the other nouns in the series to which the qualifier applies. “Thus, the State’s narrow focus on the purported linguistic ill fit between the words alcohol and administered does not logically support the ultimate conclusion that the State asks us to reach”.

The Court stated that the appellant offered “the more reasonable explanation for the inclusion of the word “any” in “any other substance” by arguing that the Legislature intended to capture all substances, the consumption of which could deprive a person of judgment to give a reasoned consent”.

 The Court pointed out that The State simply assumes that a person may become mentally incapacitated (as defined by the Legislature in Section 609.341, sub-division 7) by voluntarily consuming alcohol. “The State’s argument that the Legislature must have intended felony classification for sexual penetration with a complainant who lacks the judgment to give a reasoned consent due to voluntary intoxication does not withstand scrutiny in light of the statutes’ structural complexity (five degrees of crime) and the differentiated punishments imposed for various types of nonconsensual sexual penetration and sexual contact”.

Conclusions

Upon detailed perusal, the Court concluded that the legislative definition of ‘mentally incapacitated’ is unambiguous and clearly means that substances (including alcohol) which cause a person to lack judgment to give a reasoned consent must be administered to the person without the person’s agreement. Therefore, Section 609.341, sub-division 7 means that, a person under the influence of alcohol is not mentally incapacitated unless the alcohol was administered to the person under its influence without that person’s agreement.

With this conclusion, the Minnesota SC also reversed the decision of the District Court which found Khalil guilty. The case was remanded to the District Court for a new trial.  [State of Minnesota v. Francios Momolu Khalil, A19-1281, decided on 24-03-2021]


Sucheta Sarkar, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Image Credits: Slate.com

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Canada: The Bench comprising of Wagner C.J., and Abella, Moldaver, Karakatsanis, Côté, Brown, Rowe, Martin and Kasirer JJ., addressed an interesting regarding confusing jury verdict.  The Bench provided guidance to Appellate Courts and explained the way forward in cases of the inconsistent jury verdict.

 Background

 One, V was charged with historical sexual offences against a single complainant and convicted for sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching. However, the same jury acquitted him of sexual assault based on the same evidence. The convictions were appealed asserting that they were inconsistent with his sexual assault acquittal and therefore unreasonable.

The Crown cross‑appealed V’s acquittal maintaining that the charge was so unnecessarily confusing that it amounted to an error in law. A majority of the Court of Appeal held that there was no legal error in the jury instructions and that the convictions for sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching were unreasonable, as they were inconsistent with the acquittal on the sexual assault charge. Thus, the majority quashed V’s convictions and substituted verdicts of acquittal, and upheld the acquittal on the sexual assault charge. However, the minority found legal error in the jury instructions and would have ordered a new trial on all three charges.

Analysis by the Court

 The top Court opined that though the Trial judge misdirected the jury on the charge of sexual assault, the same was material only to the acquittal, and did not impact on the convictions. The Bench explained, where the Crown attempts to reconcile apparently inconsistent verdicts on the basis of a legal error, it must satisfy the appellate court to a high degree of certainty that there was a legal error in the jury instructions and that the error:

(1) had a material bearing on the acquittal;

(2) was immaterial to the conviction; and

(3) reconciles the inconsistency by showing that the jury did not find the accused both guilty and not guilty of the same conduct.

If these elements were satisfied, the verdicts would not actually be inconsistent. If the Appellate Court could not conclude with a high degree of certainty that the legal error did not taint the conviction, setting aside the acquittal will require a retrial on all charges.

“When the court can isolate the legal error to the acquittal, that charge should be the only one sent back for a new trial and the conviction should stand.”

In some circumstances, the appropriate remedy may be to enter a stay of proceedings on the charge for which the accused was acquitted in application of a court of appeal’s residual power under s. 686(8) of the Criminal Code. The Bench explained,

For an appellate court to issue a stay of proceedings under s. 686(8), three requirements must be met: first, the court must have exercised one of the triggering powers conferred under s. 686(2), (4), (6) or (7); second, the order issued must be ancillary to the triggering power; and third, the order must be one that justice requires.

“The Trial judge misdirected the jury on the charge of sexual assault by leaving the jury with the mistaken impression that the element of “force” required for sexual assault was different than the element of “touching” required for sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching.”

This legal error led the jury to return a verdict of acquittal on the sexual assault charge. Since it did not affect the convictions, the Trial judge’s instructions on sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching were legally correct. The jury found V guilty of sexual touching, hence the convictions, and not guilty of applying force beyond touching to the complainant in circumstances of a sexual nature, hence the acquittal. In particular, the failure to instruct the jury in clear terms that the “force” required to establish sexual assault was one and the same as the “touching” required to establish the other two offences constituted non‑direction amounting to misdirection.

Further, considering that the legal error was isolated to the acquittal as the Trial judge’s instructions on sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching were legally correct; the Bench held that the verdicts were not actually inconsistent and the convictions were not unreasonable on that basis. Accordingly, R.V.’s appeal from his convictions was dismissed. However, regarding the charge of sexual assault, the Court ordered a stay of the proceeding opining that ordering a retrial would needlessly risk abuse of process application and would bring no benefit to the administration of justice.

Taking those factors together, the Bench stated, justice requires a stay rather than sending the charge back for retrial. The Crown’s appeal was allowed, R.V.’s convictions were restored. The acquittal on R.V.’s charge of sexual assault was set aside and the proceeding on that charge was stayed, and the matter was remitted to the Court of Appeal for R.V.’s sentence appeal. [R. v. R.V., 2021 SCC 10, decided on 12-03-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: S.G. Chattopadhyay J., rejected a bail application which was filed in the matter of an FIR registered under Sections 377 and 506 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Section 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO hereunder) for committing sexual assault on the son of the informant.

The mother of the victim lodged the written ejahar alleging that the accused who was a private tutor of her son, a boy aged 9 years, used to give private tuition to her son regularly in the house of the accused of the last 3 months. When the informant found her son reluctant to go to his said private tutor and she also noticed that her son was not feeling well she asked him as to what happened to him. In reply, he told his mother that he was feeling pain in his rectum because his private tutor inserted his genital organ into his rectum at the time of his taking tuition from him. Knowing this, mother of the victim had immediately taken her son to the hospital where injuries were found in his rectum.

Apprehending arrest, the accused had approached this court for pre-arrest bail.

The Court after perusing all the records observed that the victim became very upset after the occurrence and after the medical tests when they came to know about the occurrence the accused private tutor also left his home. The Court further observed that same statement had been given by her husband and one of the neighbours who came to know about the occurrence from the parents of the victim. The 9 years old victim had also unfolded the entire incidence before the Judicial Magistrate who recorded his statement under Section 164(5) CrPC. About the medical evidence it was found that the IO had already approached the medical officer to record his findings in the medical report and such report was awaited.

The Court while rejecting the bail application found that materials available on record had made out a strong prima facie case against the accused petitioner and in view of the above, this court was of the view that this was not a fit case in which the accused may be given the benefit of custodial immunity by granting pre-arrest bail.[Indrajit Ghosh v. State of Tripura, 2021 SCC OnLine Tri 112, decided on 26-02-2021]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant ahs put this story together.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Ananda Sen, J., while addressing the instant matter with regard to the application of Section 228A of Penal Code, 1860 and subsequently the provision of defamation expressed that:

“…publishing of newspaper report of facts of lodging of an FIR cannot be said to be defamatory, especially when the FIR has been lodged by the victim herself.”

Through this interlocutory application it was submitted that during the pendency of the case, lower court cancelled the bail bonds of the petitioners, which necessitated the filing of the instant interlocutory application.

The criminal miscellaneous petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure was filed by the petitioners to quash the order taking cognizance by which cognizance of offence under Sections 228 (A)/500/501/34 of the Penal Code, 1860 was been taken by the Judicial Magistrate.

OP 2 had filed a complaint against the petitioners who happen to be the Publisher, Chief Editor, Senior Editor and Resident Editor of a local newspaper and also against the newspaper itself and its publisher alleging therein that a newspaper report was published in the said newspaper with the following heading:

The said report contained that the victim was married and there was some dispute in relation to their residential house. She was subjected to sexual assault.

Complainant lodged a criminal complaint against the petitioners who happen to be the Editor and other officials of the newspaper alleging therein that as a result of the reporting of the FIR and incident, the victim was being harassed daily and sustained mental torture hence the said report amounts to be defamatory in nature.

Lower court on taking cognizance of the above incident issued summons to the petitioners.

Analysis and Decision

Bench noted that the said newspaper as stated above published a report about a lady, who had filed an FIR alleging that she was sexually assaulted after being administered with some narcotics. Though the sum and substance of the FIR was mentioned in the report no identity disclosure of the victim was reported.

Further, the Court added that only because the petitioners were Publisher, Chief Editor, Senior Editor and Resident Editor of the newspaper, they were named as accused.

In the complaint submitted it was nowhere mentioned that the fact reported was false, rather it was admitted that the fact, which was reported was true and the FIR had already been lodged by the victim under Sections 376/328 of the IPC.

In view of the above, Court stated that on perusal of the newspaper report it was found that name of the victim was not disclosed and since nothing was found in the newspaper report, which could suggest that the identity was made known, no application of Section 228 A IPC was made out.

Hence the Court held that in the present case it was a news which was admitted to be not false, thus not amounting to the application of Section 500 or 501 of the Penal Code, 1860.

High Court allowed the present criminal miscellaneous petition in view of the above discussion. [Ashutosh Choubey v. State of Jharkhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 2484, decided on 24-10-2019]

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 BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has stayed the controversial Bombay High Court judgment wherein the High Court had acquitted the accused under Section 8 of the POCSO Act, 2012 on the ground that the accused had no sexual intent in committing the offence under POCSO Act because there was no direct physical contact, i.e., skin to skin.

The said order came after Attorney General for India K. K. Venugopal brought to the Court’s notice that the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court has passed a judgment dated 19.01.2021 is likely to set “a dangerous precedent”.

The Court, hence, permitted the Attorney General to file an appropriate petition against the said judgment and in the meantime, stayed the acquittal of the accused in the case in question.

The bench, further, issued notice to the accused and the State of Maharashtra returnable two weeks.

In judgment dated 19.01.2021, Pushpa V. Ganediwala, J., of Bombay High Court’s Nagpur Bench, expressed that since there was no direct physical contact i.e. skin to skin with sexual intent without penetration, the said would not amount to ‘sexual assault’.

The Bench expressed that the act of pressing of the breast of the child aged 12 years, in the absence of any specific detail as to whether the top was removed or whether he inserted his hand inside top and pressed her breast, would not fall in the definition of ‘sexual assault’.

[Attorney General for India v. Satish, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 42, order dated 27.01.2021]


ALSO READ

Bombay HC on Sexual Assault | Would ‘pressing of breast’ and ‘attempt to remove salwar’ of a child fall under S. 7 and punishable under S. 8 of POCSO Act?

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: The Division Bench of Ved Prakash Vaish and Vikas Kunvar Srivastav, JJ., expressed that:

“Justice demands that courts should impose punishment fitting to the crime. The courts must not only keep in view the rights of the criminal but also the rights of the victim of crime and the society at large while considering imposition of appropriate punishment.”

Appellant was convicted for the offence under Section 376 of the Penal Code, 1860, though he was acquitted for the offence under Section 506(2) of the Penal Code, 1860.

Father of the Prosecutrix had lodged a complaint that his daughter had gone for easement by the roadside and did not return to the house for a long time and on inquiry, his son Kalim Ahmad aged 13 years informed that Prem Chamar forcibly took the prosecutrix on his bicycle.

On reaching outside the village, he saw his daughter (prosecutrix) weeping who disclosed the entire incident and found the bloodstains on her undergarments and concluded that Prem Chamar had committed rape on his daughter.

In light of the above sequence of events, offence under Section 376 IPC was registered.

Trial Court found the appellant to be guilty of having committed the offence under Section 376 IPC and sentenced the appellant.

On being aggrieved with the above, appellant preferred the present appeal.

Analysis and Decision

“It is settled law that refusal to act on the testimony of the victim of sexual assault in absence of corroboration as a rule, is adding to insult to injury.”

 Bench further in light of the above expressed that, a girl or a woman in the tradition-bound non-permissive society of India would be extremely reluctant even to admit that any incident which is likely to reflect on her chastity had ever occurred.

“A woman or a girl who is raped is not an accomplice. Corroboration is not the sine qua non for conviction in a rape case.”

 Court referred to the decisions of Supreme Court in State of Punjab v. Gurmit Singh, (1996) 2 SCC 384 and Takhatji Hiraji v. Thakore Kubersing Chamansingh, (2001) 6 SCC 145, Vijendra Singh v. State of U.P., (2017) 11 SCC 129, State of H.P. v. Gian Chand, (2001) 6 SCC 71, Aslam v. State of U.P., (2014) 13 SCC 350, State of Haryana v. Basti Ram, (2013) 4 SCC 200, Raju v. State of M.P., (2008) 15 SCC 133.

High Court stated that Supreme Court had observed in Raju v. State of M.P., (2008) 15 SCC 133, that it cannot be lost sight of that rape causes the greatest distress and humiliation to the victim but at the same time a false allegation of rape can cause equal distress, humiliation and damage to the accused as well. The accused must also be protected against the possibility of false implication. There is no presumption or any basis for assuming that the statement of such a witness is always correct or without any embellishment or exaggeration.

“Courts while trying an accused on the charge of rape, must deal with the case with the utmost sensitivity, examining the broader probabilities of a case and not get swayed by minor contradictions or insignificant discrepancies in the evidence of the witnesses which are not of a substantial character.”

 Bench noted that considering the statement of the prosecutrix (PW2), a girl of nine years, corroboration from an independent source of the evidence of prosecutrix is not required. The evidence of the prosecutrix establishes that the appellant committed rape on her.

Court opined that the trial court did not commit any mistake in convicting the appellant for the offence under Section 376 IPC. Accordingly, appellant’s conviction was upheld.

Sentence

With regard to the question of sentence, Court stated that it may be mentioned that the protection of society by stamping out criminal activity is an essential function of State.

The facts and given circumstances of each case, the nature of the crime, the manner in which it was planned and committed, the motive for commission of the crime, the conduct of convict and all other attending circumstances are relevant facts for imposing appropriate sentence.

Hence, the object of sentencing is that the offenders do not go unpunished and the justice be done to the victim of crime and society. It is, therefore, the duty of every court to award proper sentence having regard to the nature of the offence and the manner in which it was executed or committed.

Therefore, in the instant case, Court held that the interest of justice would be met if the sentence imposed by trial court would be modified to that of rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and to pay a fine of Rs 2,000.

Concluding the decision, Court in view of the above discussion dismissed the appeal. [Prem Chamar v. State of U.P., Criminal Appeal No. 1078 of 2012, decided on 22-01-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Pushpa V. Ganediwala, J., expressed that since there was no direct physical contact i.e. skin to skin with sexual intent without penetration, the said would not amount to ‘sexual assault’.

Present appeal was filed against the Order passed by the Extra Joint Additional Sessions Judge, Nagpur by which the appellant was convicted for the offence punishable under Sections 354, 363 and 342 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Section 8 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.

Factual Matrix

In the instant matter, it was noted that the prosecutrix’s age was 12 years. Prosecutrix went to bring guava and did not come back for a long time. Informant i.e. the mother (PW1) of appellant started searching for her, her neighbour told her that the appellant who was staying in the vicinity of their house, took her daughter to his house and showed her the house of the appellant.

PW1 went called out the prosecutrix’s name. Later, she saw the appellant coming down from the first floor. She asked the appellant about the whereabouts of her daughter. He denied the presence of the prosecutrix in his house. Further, the PW-1 searched for her daughter on the ground floor and then she went up to the first floor. The room was bolted from outside. She opened it and found her daughter.

Informant took out her daughter from that room and her daughter narrated the incident that on the pretext of giving guava to her, the appellant brought her to his house and pressed her breast and when he tried to remove her knicker, she shouted. Thereafter he went out, after bolting the room from outside.

Question for Consideration

Whether the ‘pressing of breast’ and ‘attempt to remove salwar’ would fall within the definition of ‘sexual assault’ as defined under Section 7 and punishable under Section 8 of the POCSO Act?

Appellant/accused was convicted for the offence of ‘sexual assault’ and added that as per the definition of ‘sexual assault’, a ‘physical contact with sexual intent without penetration’ is an essential ingredient of the offence.

Analysis and Decision

Bench expressed that the act of pressing of the breast of the child aged 12 years, in the absence of any specific detail as to whether the top was removed or whether he inserted his hand inside top and pressed her breast, would not fall in the definition of ‘sexual assault’.

 The above would certainly fall within the definition of the offence under Section 354 of the Penal Code, 1860.

“The act of pressing breast can be a criminal force to woman/girl with the intention to outrage her modesty. Minimum punishment to be provided for the said offence is 1 year, which may extend to 5 years and shall also be liable to fine.”

Further, the Court added that in the instant case, having regard to the nature of the alleged act by the appellant and having regard to the circumstances, in the opinion of this Court, the alleged act fits into the definition of the offence as defined in Section 354 of IPC.

Court also noted that the prosecution’s case was not that the appellant had removed her top and pressed her breast. As such, there was no direct physical contact i.e. skin to skin with sexual intent without penetration.

Bench while concluding, held that the appellant shall be acquitted under Section 8 of the POCSO Act and convicted under minor offence under Section 354 of IPC.

In light of the above, criminal appeal was disposed of. [Satish v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 72, decided on 19-01-2021]


Advocates for the parties:

Sk. Sabahat Ullah, Advocate for the appellant.

J. Khan, APP for the respondent.

Hot Off The PressNews

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India, in order to ensure effective prosecution leading to conviction in cases of sexual assault on women, has prepared a ‘Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on Collection & Processing of scientific/forensic evidences.’ The SOP, prepared in consultation with medical experts, has been sent to the States/UTs for issuing instructions to all the officers concerned for implementation.

The SOP has been divided into seven sections of key operating procedures. These are: victim care, promptness and examination, collection of samples, collection of blood and urine samples, genital and anal evidence, handing over samples to FSL and general. It can be accessed through the link: https://nhrc.nic.in/acts-and-rules/standard-operating-procedure-sop-collection-processing-scientificforensic-evidences

The Commission has come out with this SOP after it observed that in many cases of alleged rape and sexual assault, there is a substantial delay in medical examination, collection & processing of scientific/forensic evidences of the victim of sexual assault. The exhibits are forwarded to the Forensic Science Laboratory, FSL after much delay and by that time, the samples deteriorate/autolyse and become unsuitable for examination. This delay adversely affects the investigation for effective prosecution leading to a conviction.

The NHRC has expressed the hope that this Standard Operating Procedure if implemented in letter & spirit by the concerned authorities, will definitely help improve the system of medicolegal investigation in cases of sexual assault on women in the country.


National Human Rights Commission

[Press Release dt. 16-12-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah*, JJ refused to interfere with the conviction of a man for sexually assaulting a mentally deficient woman.

“A person suffering from mental disorder or mental sickness deserves special care, love and affection. They are not to be exploited. In the present case, the accused has exploited the victim by taking disadvantage of her mental sickness/illness. Therefore, no interference of this Court against the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court convicting the accused is called for.”

Brief Background

In 2008, the 19-year-old prosecutrix, was sexually assaulted by the accused in the jugle where they both used to go to graze cattle. The accused threatened the prosecutrix not to disclose the incident to anyone and due to fear and due to forgetting the same and further due to mental weakness, she did not disclose about the incident to anyone including her mother. When she was medically examined, it was found that she was 31 weeks pregnant. After she gave birth to a female child, blood samples of the prosecutrix, the baby and the accused were taken for DNA test.  As per report, accused was the biological father of the female child.

The trial Court acquitted the accused mainly on the ground of delay in lodging the FIR and also on the ground that the prosecutrix was not mentally unsound to understand the consequences and what was happening.

However, the Himachal Pradesh High Court sentenced the accused to undergo seven years R.I. with fine of Rs. 10,000/- and in default of payment of fine, further six months R.I. under Section 376 IPC and four years R.I. with fine   of Rs.5,000/- and in default of payment of fine, further three months R.I. under Section 506 IPC.

Analysis

On re-appreciation of evidence by the High Court

The Court held that in the facts and circumstances of the case the High Court is justified and, as such, has not committed any error in reversing the order of acquittal passed by the learned trial Court and convicting the accused for the offences under Sections 376 and 506 IPC. Being the first appellate Court, the High Court was justified in re-appreciating the entire evidence on record and the reasoning given by the learned trial Court.

On the mental condition of the prosecutrix

“Merely because the victim was in a position to do some household works cannot discard the medical evidence that the victim had mild mental retardation and she was not in a position to understand the good and bad aspect of sexual assault.”

Is language material for conducting IQ tests?

In   the   crossexamination, the Medical Expert specifically stated that the language is not material in the tests because these are independent of language. IQ of a person can be known on the basis of the questions, activities and the history of a patient. Therefore, even if there might be some contradictions with respect to language known by the victim, in that case also, it cannot be said to be the major contradictions to disbelieve the entire medical evidence on the mental status of the victim.

On the culpability of the accused

On evidence, it was established and proved that the victim was mentally retarded and her IQ was 62. Holding that the accused had taken disadvantage of the mental illness and low IQ of the victim, the Court noticed

“It is required to be appreciated coupled with the fact that the accused is found to be the biological father of the baby child delivered by the victim. Despite the above, in his 313 statement the case of the accused was of a total denial. It was never the case of the accused that it was a case of consent.”

Therefore, considering the evidence on record, the Court upheld the decision of the High Court wherein it was observed that case would fall under Section 375 IPC. Further, even as per clause fifthly of Section 375 IPC, “a man is said to commit rape”, if with her consent when, at the time of giving such consent, by reason of unsoundness of mind, is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gives consent.

On reduction of sentence

It was contended on behalf of the accused that he has already undergone four years RI out of seven years RI awarded to him and is married and has two children and therefore a lenient view may be taken. The Court rejected this contention and said

“…as such the High Court has also taken a very lenient view by imposing the minimum sentence of seven years RI.  It is required to be noted that it is a case of sexual assault on a victim whose IQ was 62 and was mentally retarded and that accused has taken undue advantage of the mental sickness/illness of the victim.”

[Chaman Lal v. State of Himachal Pradesh, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 988, decided on 03.12.2020]


*Justice MR Shah has penned this judgment

For Appellant: Advocate Radhika Gautam, learned Advocate has appeared for

For State: Advocate Sarthak Ghonkrokta

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Manoj Kumar Ohri, J., confirmed the conviction and sentence of the appellant, who was convicted by the trial court for the offence punishable under Section 6 (punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (“POCSO”) and Section 366-A (procuration of minor girl) of the Penal Code, 1860.

Crime and conviction

The appellant was a tenant in the house of the child-victim’s maternal grandmother (“nani”). The victim called the appellant “mama” (maternal uncle). As per the victim, one day when she was returning her home from her nani’s house, the appellant stopped her on the staircase and took her to his room where he inserted his hand in her private part. She tried to stop him and threw her “chappal” (slipper) at him. After which, she opened the lock of the room from inside and ran to her home where she narrated the entire incident to her mother. The mother of the victim took her to the police station where crime was registered.

The appellant was convicted by the trial court for under Section 6 of POCSO and Section 366-A IPC and sentenced to suffer 10 years RI and 5 years RI along with the imposition of fine respectively under the two provisions.

Appeal

Aggrieved by the decision of the trial court, the appellant preferred the present appeal where he submitted, among other things, that the child-victim’s testimony was doubtful as she had stated that the appellant inserted his hand in her private part, but on medical examination, no injury or swelling was noticed. It was also submitted that the appellant was falsely implicated due to certain monetary dispute between him and family of the victim. The State, on the other hand, opposed the present appeal.

The appellant was represented by Kanhaiya Singhal, Advocate; while Radhika Kolluru, APP, appeared for the State.

Analysis, law and decision

The High Court noted that as per the medical examination of the victim, there was no abrasion, swelling or bleeding in her private part.

At the outset, the Court referred to the Supreme Court decisions in Vijay v. State of M.P., (2010) 8 SCC 191 and Rajinder v. State of H.P., (2009) 16 SCC 69 to restate the settled law that that in a case of rape, the finding of guilt can be recorded even on the basis of uncorroborated testimony of the prosecutrix, provided it is cogent and reliable. Reliance was also placed on State of M.P. v. Ramesh, (2011) 4 SCC 786 and Ranjit Kumar Ram v. State of Bihar, (2015) SCC OnLine SC 500 for remembering that testimony of a child witness has to be evaluated more carefully as it is susceptible to tutoring.

In the present case, however, the Court found that the child was not tutored and her testimony stood the test of extra caution.

Regarding the absence of injury on the child-victim, the Court observed:

A perusal of the testimony of the child-victim would show that the present case is of ‘insertion’ and not of ‘penetration’. Although on local examination, the Doctor did not notice any abrasion/swelling/bleeding but absence of any injury on superficial examination does not lead to an inference that no offence took place. Even in a case of penetration, the consistent judicial diktat is that absence of injuries may not always be fatal to the prosecution case and the same would depend on the facts of each case.

On the contention of false implication, the Court noted that there were contradictions in the appellant’s own defence and thus there was no merit in such submission.

After careful consideration of the testimony of the child-victim, the Court was of the opinion that she had consistently stated about the incident in all of her statements. Her evidence was trustworthy, reliable and also admissible. The appellant failed to dislodge the statutory presumption under Sections 29 and 30 of the POCSO Act.

In such view of the matter, the Court dismissed the appeal and affirmed the decision of the trial court. [Ishwer Soni v. State (NCT of Delhi),  2020 SCC OnLine Del 1378, decided on 23-10-2020]

Hot Off The PressNews

The National Human Rights Commission issued notice to the Chief Secretary, Director General of Police and the Director-General of Prisons, Madhya Pradesh after taking suo motu cognizance about the allegations made by women on five cops for gang rape in lockup.

It is mentioned in the news report that a 20-year-old woman has levelled allegations that she was kept in lock-up for 10 days in the month of May this year and was subjected to rape by 5 police personnel including the Police Station Incharge and SDPO of Mangawan area of Rewa district of Madhya Pradesh. The woman, as mentioned in the news report, was an accused in a case of murder and presently she is lodged in judicial custody. The incident occurred in the month of May and it came to the knowledge of the District Judge after a period of five months. Even the prison warden did not have the courage to report the matter to the higher authorities.

It is further added that as alleged by the victim woman, she was subjected to rape between 09-05-2020 to 21-05-2020 while the police contradict, to be arrested on 21-05-2020. The female constable had protested at that time but she was rebuked by her seniors.

The Commission considered the vulnerable position of the victim. She was in police custody when she was allegedly subjected to utmost cruelty and sexual assault by the 5 police personnel. Even a protest made by a female police official went in vain. Very serious allegations have been levelled by the victim woman. Public servants from the law enforcement agencies, who are supposed to safeguard the citizens especially the women and the people from the vulnerable classes of the society have allegedly committed the heinous crime against a woman in their custody.

The Commission directs that the matter may be investigated by a senior police officer, not below the rank of the Deputy Inspector General of Police.


National Human Rights Commission

[Press Release dt. 19-10-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Suresh Kumar Gupta, J., while addressing the present jail appeal held that,

“…in cases involving sexual assault/rape, it is generally difficult to find any corroborative witnesses, except the victim herself and therefore, the evidence of the victim is sufficient for conviction unless there exist compelling reasons for seeking corroboration.”

Appellant has been convicted and sentenced under Section 376 of Penal Code, 1860 for 10 years rigorous imprisonment alongwith a fine of Rs 20,000 and in default of payment of fine, two years additional imprisonment, under Section 342 IPC for six months imprisonment alongwith fine of Rs 500 and in default of payment of fine fifteen days additional imprisonment and under Section 506 IPC for 2 years rigorous imprisonment alongwith fine of Rs 1000 and in default of payment of fine, one-month additional imprisonment. All the sentences shall run concurrently.

Trial Court held the accused guilty and convicted him for the charged offences as aforesaid.

Counsel for the appellant Deepak Rana and AGA for the State is Sri Jai Prakash Tripathi.

Bench observed that it is a settled principle of law that in cases involving sexual assault/rape, it is generally difficult to find any corroborative witnesses, except the victim herself and therefore, the evidence of the victim is sufficient for conviction unless there exist compelling reasons for seeking corroboration. Thus, a conviction can be sustained on the sole testimony of the prosecutrix, if it inspires confidence.

In Gagan Bihari Samal v. State of Orissa, (1991) 3 SCC 562 Supreme Court of India whilst observing that corroboration is not the sine qua non for conviction in a rape case, held as follows :

In cases of rape, generally, it is difficult to find any corroborative witnesses except the victim of the rape. It has been observed by this Court in Bharwada Bhoginbhai Hirjibhai v. State of Gujarat,(1983) 3 SCC 217.

Further, it is also a well-settled principle of law that the testimony of child witness can be relied upon along with other circumstances and corroborative evidence to convict the accused. Undoubtedly, the settled proposition of law that the evidence of child witness is required to be scrutinised and appreciated with great caution.

Court in view of the well-settled law examined whether the evidence adduced by the prosecution, particularly the testimony of the victim is trustworthy, credible and can be relied upon.

Victim clearly stated that she was misled by the accused/appellant Jonny and he took away her to his house and committed rape upon her by extending threat. The statement of PW-2 has also been corroborated by the mother of the victim PW-1.

Further, there are catena of Judgments of the Supreme Court of India that it is necessary for the Court to have a sensitive approach when dealing with the cases of rape.

In the Supreme Court decision of State of Punjab v. Ramdev Singh, (2004) 1 SCC 421  it was held that,

Sexual violence apart from being a dehumanizing act is an unlawful intrusion on the right of privacy and sanctity of a female. It is a serious blow to her supreme honour and offends her self-esteem and dignity.

It degrades and humiliates the victim and where the victim is a helpless innocent child or a minor. It leaves behind a traumatic experience. A rapist not only causes physical injuries but more indelibly leaves a scar on the most cherished possession of a woman i.e. her dignity, honour, reputation and not the least her chastity. Rape is not only a crime against the person of a woman, it is a crime against the entire society.

Bench stated that it has been established that in the absence of a family member of victim, the accused/appellant fraudulently called the victim to his house. On being called the victim reached the house where appellant forcefully committed rape. In these facts and circumstances in an ordinary procedure it cannot be said to be a case of false implication.

Prosecution by cogent and credible evidence is able to prove the charge under Section 376 IPC against the appellant.

In the present matter, victim is a minor and an adult committed rape on a girl of tender age, deterrent punishment is called for, taking a lenient view is out of the question.

Presently the appellant is incarcerated for more than 7 years. Conviction of the appellant is confirmed under Sections 376, 342 & 506 IPC. So on the point of conviction, the appeal is dismissed.

On the quantum of the sentence, this Court thinks that the end of justice would be met if the appellant is sentenced to imprisonment which he has already undergone.

In view of the above, the appeal is finally disposed of. [Jonny v. State of U.P., Jail Appeal No. 343 of 2018, decided on 03-09-2020]

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 BriefsForeign Courts

Federal Court of Australia: Stewart, J. allowed an appeal filed by a Sri Lankan rape survivor who had applied for an Australian visa, holding that the Immigration Assessment Authority (IAA) erred in rejecting the applicant’s claim that social stigma arising from her sexual assault coupled with her Tamil ethnicity could likely amount to persecution if she were to be sent back.

The appellant is a Sri Lankan citizen of Tamil ethnicity, who lodged a combined application for Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEVs) in 2017 along with her husband and son. Their applications were denied on the grounds that Australia did not owe them protection obligations, and this was affirmed by the IAA. The Federal Circuit Court dismissed the appellant’s application for judicial review of the Authority’s decision.

The appellant feared returning to Sri Lanka due to her Tamil ethnicity and her imputed pro-LTTE political opinion, and apprehended a continuing risk of rape and harassment by Sri Lankan security forces, which had been ongoing since the civil war ended in 2009. She claimed that she been raped while in Sri Lanka, but had “not been able to express this to anybody, not even [her husband].”

The IAA, however, was not convinced that her fear was well-founded, having given regard to “the improved security situation in Sri Lanka, the opportune nature of the sexual assault in 2010 and the protection the appellant would receive from her family,” stating that it was not satisfied that she would face a similar harm (of sexual assault) if she were to return. It went further to state that since the knowledge of the incident was limited to a very small pool of persons, there did not exist a real chance that she would face societal discrimination.

The Court disagreed with the earlier decisions, making a reference to “country information” cited by the IAA itself, which demonstrated that there was a factual basis to the realistic possibility that Tamil rape-survivors in Sri Lanka face discrimination and social stigma. It observed that by assuming that the appellant would not suffer from discrimination because she would be discrete about her rape, the IAA impermissibly divided Tamil sexual assault-survivors in Sri Lanka into two categories- one whose assault is public, and one whose is not. This shifted the focus away from the main question as to why she felt unable to tell “anyone,” causing the Authority to fail to enter upon the inquiry as to whether the social group suffers persecution as a consequence of social stigma. Since the IAA was operating under the presumption that the rape would not be disclosed, it failed to consider what would happen to the appellant if it did.

Stewart, J. acknowledged the increased vulnerability of sexual assault survivors to various adverse health effects as a result of prolonging disclosure of sexual assault, feelings of shame and experiencing negative social reactions. Holding that the appellant could be found to be a refugee and could fulfil the criteria under Section 36(2)(a) of the Migration Act, 1958 (Cth) wherein Australia has protection obligations with respect to a non-citizen refugee, it set aside the orders of the primary judge, allowed the application for judicial review of its decision and remitted the matter to the Authority for reconsideration. [CGW18 v Minister for Home Affairs [2020] FCA 1104, decided on 03-08-2020]