The Gauhati High Court has initiated suo moto bail cancellation of a hostel warden accused of having sexually assaulted 21 children (15 girls and 6 boys), aged 6 to 12 years between 2019 to 2022. The Court was appalled by the way the case was handled, with the main accused being granted bail without any reasonable justification. The Court also noted that the Special Court had failed to consider the safety of the victims, which was a mandatory provision.

The Bench of Chief Justice Sandeep Mehta observed, “The conscience of the Court has been shaken by the way in which a case of such grave magnitude and sensitive nature has been dealt with in an absolutely cavalier fashion by granting bail to the main accused without assigning any plausible reasons…However, perusal of the bail order dated 23.02.2023 would reveal that the Special Court acted in gross disregard to this mandatory provision”.

Senior Standing Counsel T.J. Mahanta appeared for the Petitioner and Advocate General I. Chowdhury with Additional Advocate General N.N.B. Choudhury appeared for the Respondents.

In this case, the records showed that there were 21 victims, all under 15 years of age, who were subjected to sexual assault by the Accused/Hostel Warden, who was in a position of authority. The charge sheet included statements from the victims, indicating that the Warden made the children watch pornographic movies and repeatedly sexually assaulted them. Medical reports supported the fact that the victims were sexually assaulted, as evident from the marks of violence found on their private parts. The Accused was charged under Section 376AB with Section 439(1A) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The Court held that Special Court erred in considering the bail application of the Accused. The Court emphasized “Since the offence under Section 376AB of the IPC has also been applied in the case, by virtue of Section 439(1A) of the Cr.PC it is mandatory to ensure presence of the informant or any person authorized by him at the time of hearing of the application for bail”.

The Court ordered that the bail of the accused be canceled and that the Director General of Police takes all necessary steps to ensure the safety of the victims and their families.

The Court also ordered that the Director General of Police to strictly adhere to the provisions of the Witness Protection Scheme, 2018.“Considering the tenor of the order passed by the learned Special Judge, this Court feels that there is a emergent need of sensitizing the Special Judges posted in the POCSO Courts across the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and Assam”, the Court noted.

Additionally, the Court directed the Judicial Academy of Assam to initiate the process for training and sensitizing all Judicial Officers dealing with Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) cases in the States of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, and Arunachal Pradesh.

Accordingly, the Court listed the matter for July 27.

Cause Title: In Re- State of Arunachal Pradesh and Ors (Neutral Citation No.: GAHC010158992023)

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