The Bombay High Court convicted a man accused of making an attempt to put a 14-year-old girl into the of prostitution.

The State had filed an appeal against the judgment of the Additional Sessions Judge, Nashik by which the said man was acquitted of the offences punishable under Sections 363 and 366A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 5 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956.

A Single Bench of Justice Prithviraj K. Chavan said, “I am constrained to take a view that the decision of the trial Court will have to be reversed by interdicting to meet the ends of justice. There is every likelihood of the respondent being a pimp. However, there is absolutely no scope of any doubt creeping in, in the light of the discussion made hereinabove. … The respondent, therefore, is found guilty and stands convicted of the offences punishable under sections 363 and 366A of the I.P.C and Section 5 of the Act of 1956.”

The Bench noted that the High Court shall not interfere with an order of acquittal merely because it opines that a different view is possible or even preferable and that the same can interfere in an appeal against acquittal only if appreciation of the evidence by the Trial Court is capricious or its conclusions are without evidence that the High Court may reverse the order of acquittal.

APP G.P. Mulekar appeared for the appellant/State/complainant while Advocate Rajesh B. Parab appeared for the respondent/original accused.

In this case, the victim was prosecuting her studies in a boarding school and the original accused was the neighbour of her brother. Since families of the victim and accused were acquainted, victim and other siblings used to call the accused as “Mama” (maternal uncle). In 2013, the victim visited the accused’s house and at that time, his wife informed her that they would be visiting a temple upon which she expressed her willingness to accompany them along with her younger sister. The accused stated that she should not bring her sister and when the victim asked permission, her brother’s wife asked her not to go there. On the next day, the accused took the victim to Nashik under the pretext of purchasing clothes and ‘Chappal’ and after reaching there, he took her to Thakare Galli which is a red-light area having brothels.

The accused met a woman and informed her that he had brought a girl and the said woman, after noticing the victim, abused him. He then approached another woman, prostitute and demanded a room. He asked the victim to enter the said room immediately after it was provided to him by the said woman. When the victim entered the room, she got scared as she noticed several cots kept in the same. She started weeping and ran away from the said place, and narrated the incident to a few women social workers, who informed the police. Thereafter, the victim’s father lodged a complaint but the Trial Court gave benefit of doubt to the accused and acquitted him.

The High Court in view of the facts and circumstances of the case observed, “… it can be seen even from the cross-examination of the victim that instead of taking her to Nashik, the respondent took her to Village Girnare first and thereafter to Nashik in a Jeep. If the respondent was to visit Saptashrungi Vani, it is difficult to digest as to how he would take the victim to Nashik and that too, in an area which is known as “Thakare Galli”. It is admittedly a red light area where Brothels are run. Even if the story of the respondent that the victim, despite his reluctance, voluntarily accompanied him would not absolve him from the offence of kidnapping her from lawful guardianship as provided in Section 361 of the I.P.C as it is evident from the evidence of the victim itself that she was admittedly below 16 years of age and she was enticed by the respondent without the consent of her lawful guardians namely her brother Rajendra and his wife.”

The Court held that since the victim was 14 years of age, her act of alleged voluntarily accompanying with the respondent would be insignificant as it would indeed amount to kidnapping from her lawful guardianship and hence, the offence of kidnapping from the lawful guardianship is established and proved by the prosecution.

“The motive of the respondent, his preparation as well as his previous conduct in view of section 8 of the Evidence Act is quite relevant in the given set of circumstances. These are all the relevant facts which cannot be lightly brushed aside. … The respondent is not an innocent person as tried to be demonstrated by the defence in light of the fact that he has been frequent visitor of the red light area of Nashik where he used to bring women for trafficking”, it further noted.

The Court also said that there is every reason to construe that the respondent had full knowledge and intention that because of his conduct of procuring the victim, she would be likely to be seduced to illicit intercourse with another person.

“The impugned judgment is perverse and is in total ignorance of the clinching evidence of the victim as well as P.W. 3 – Sushila Ghanwate, P.W. 4 – Latabai Kapse and P.W. 5 – Alka Gurav as the learned trial Court has not correctly appreciated and discussed the testimonies of these important witnesses. The learned Judge, though in paragraph 9 of the impugned judgment, while describing the admitted facts that the respondent had brought the victim to Nashik and took her to Thakare Galli at the brothel, conveniently ignored this important aspect in later part of the judgment as to why the respondent took the victim in the red light area where Brothels were situated. The learned trial Judge has committed a grave error in observing that as prosecution did not examine brother of the victim and his wife and, therefore, concluded that it was the victim who voluntarily accompanied the respondent to Nashik”, it said.

The Court further observed that the impugned judgment and order of acquittal by the trial Court is not in accordance with law and that the approach of the Trial Court has led to miscarriage of justice. It noted that the offences committed by the respondent are serious and have impact on the society as he tried to put the victim into the business of prostitution. It added that the victim had reposed trust upon him since she used to call him “Mama”.

Accordingly, the High Court allowed the appeal, reversed the Trial Court’s judgment, and convicted the accused.

Cause Title- The State of Maharashtra v. Vijay Bhika Dive (Neutral Citation: 2024:BHC-AS:1789)

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