Considering the age of the victim and finding that the act committed by the Appellant comes within the definition of rape under section 375(b) of IPC, the Odisha High Court held that the prosecution has established a case under section 376-AB of IPC against the Appellant which prescribes punishment for rape on woman under twelve years of age.

The Bench of Justice S.K Sahoo observed that "the Trial Court has rightly accepted the evidence of the victim which is corroborated by other evidence and came to conclusion that ingredients of the offence under section 6 of the POCSO Act are made out the case".

Since, "immediate disclosure of victim before her mother after the occurrence is admissible as res gestae under section 6 of the Evidence Act as it is a spontaneous statement connected with the fact in issue and there was no time interval for fabrication", added the Bench.

Amicus Curiae Padmaja Pattnaik appeared for the Petitioner and Additional Standing Advocate Susamarani Sahoo appeared for the Respondent.

In a nutshell, the Appellant (Barika Pradhan) faced trial in the Court of Additional-Sessions-Judge-cum-Special Judge for commission of offences punishable under section 376(2)(n) of IPC and section 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) on the accusation that the Appellant had committed aggravated penetrative sexual assault on a minor girl. The Trial Court found the Appellant guilty and sentenced him for ten-year rigorous imprisonment along with a fine of ten thousand rupees.

After considering the submissions, the Bench observed that as per section 118 of Evidence Act, a child witness is a competent witness, provided he/she can understand the questions put to him/her and give rational answers to such questions, and therefore, there is no infirmity in acting upon the evidence of a competent child witness.

Elucidating that a child witness, by reason of her tender age, is a pliable witness and that she can be tutored easily either by threat, coercion or inducement, the Bench said that the precaution which the Court should bear in mind while assessing the evidence of a child witness is that, the witness must be reliable one and her demeanour must be like any other competent witness and there is no likelihood of being tutored.

The High Court went on to elaborate that the evidence of a child witness can be relied upon, if the Court with its expertise and ability to evaluate the evidence, concludes that the child is not tutored and her evidence has a ring of truth.

It is safe and prudent to look for corroboration for the evidence of a child witness from the other evidence on record, because while giving evidence a child may give scope to her imagination and exaggerate her version or may develop cold feet and not tell the truth or may repeat what she has been asked to say not knowing the consequences of her deposition”, added the Court.

The Bench highlighted that on the next day of the occurrence when the first information report was lodged in the police station and the victim was sent for medical examination, abrasion was noticed on her private part which strengthens the prosecution case and corroborates the evidence of the victim.

Accordingly, while upholding the conviction of the Appellant under section 6 of the POCSO Act and the substantive sentence of ten years awarded for such offence, the High Court reduced the fine amount imposed on the Appellant to rupees one thousand and reduced the default sentence to a period of one month.

Cause Title: Barika Pradhan v. State of Odisha

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