The Bombay High Court, Nagpur Bench upheld the life imprisonment awarded to a 55-year-old man who was convicted of raping and impregnating a minor girl, who was the daughter of his domestic help.

The Bench of Justice Rohit Deo and Justice Urmila Joshi Phalke held that the Trial Court has rightly convicted the accused and the sentence of life imprisonment did not need any interference.

"It is to be borne in mind that the accused is the person who has violated the victim's privacy and personal integrity and also caused serious psychological as well as physical harm to the victim. Rape is not merely a physical assault but it is often destructive the whole personality of the victim, and therefore, the matters of such allegation must be dealt with utmost sensitivity." observed the Court.

In this case, FIR was lodged by the mother of the victim, who was 16 years old at the time of the incident. The victim along with her mother used to reside with the convict as his domestic help. The convict had established sexual relations with the victim of three-fur occasions as a result of which she got pregnant and delivered a child at the tender age of 16 years.

The Trial Court found the convict guilty for the offences punishable under section 376 (2)(f),(j),(I),(n) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and sentenced him to suffer life imprisonment. Hence, the present appeal was preferred before the High Court.

The Trial Court while awarding the life imprisonment observed that the accused who being in position of trust and dominance over the victim took undue advantage of these circumstances and committed heinous crime to fulfill his lust. Victim had undergone tremendous mental trauma by delivering a child at such a tender age and has to lead her remaining life with permanent scar as well as psychological impact on her life.

Advocate A.S. Dhore appeared for the appellant and contended that the prosecution has not proved the age of the victim and that the pregnancy was result of the love relationship of the victim with some other boy. It was also contended that only on the basis of DNA evidence the accused could not be held guilty for the offence or rape.

APP M.J. Khan appeared for the victim and submitted that the evidence of the victim corroborated by the medical evidence as well as the DNA report sufficiently showed that it was the accused who committed sexual intercourse with the victim which therefore, resulted into her pregnancy and that the victim had not been in any love relationship.

The Court noted that the prosecution has primarily relied upon the scientific evidence i.e., the DNA report and observed that "There can be no doubt that there have been remarkable technological advancement in forensic science and in scientific investigations. The DNA testing has an unparalleled ability both to exonerate the wrongly convicted and to identify the guilty. It has the potential to significantly improve both the criminal justice system and police investigative practices."

The Court also observed that "if totality of circumstances emerging on record discloses that the victim does not have any motive to falsely implicate the accused and her evidence corroborated by the medical and scientific evidence indicate that she had been sexually assaulted by the accused."

The Court also expressed that the accused was under a moral obligation to protect her as he himself had a daughter of his own. And, further said that "The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 is enacted with specific object that the law should operate in a manner that the best interest and well being of the child are regarded as paramount importance at every stage, to ensure the healthy, physical, emotional, intellectual, social development of the child. The object is also that the person of culpable state of mind should be punished for harassing the child and keep the society child friendly."

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the appeal and directed the Secretary, High Court Legal Service Sub Committee, Nagpur to take necessary steps regarding the rehabilitation of the victim girl.

Cause Title- Harishchandra Sitaram Khanorkar v. State of Maharashtra

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