The Delhi High Court, while upholding the conviction in a POCSO case, expressed concern about victims.

The Court said that such incidents deprive females of the career opportunity and standing on their own feet and be educated and their psychological trauma continues for a lifetime.

The Court was considering an appeal filed by a man convicted by the POCSO Court under Sections 363, 376(2)(n)(i) of the IPC and Section 6 of the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act.

A Single Bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma observed, “The impressionable minds of the minor victims are profoundly impacted, as they lack the capacity to make informed decisions at the tender ages of 12 or 14. These girls are misled into thinking that they are entering into a marital union, and the sexual assault is often projected by the assaulter as marital physical union to coax the victim to accept it without resistance. The consequences of such acts extend beyond the individual victims; they cause ripples through society by pulling these girls away from their pear groups, studies and their lawful guardianship. They are disengaged from their studies and are thus denied the opportunity to pursue the careers they might have otherwise chosen in case they would have continued with their studies.”

Advocate Mukesh Singh appeared for the appellant while APP Naresh Kumar Chahar appeared for the respondent.

In this case, the victim’s father lodged a missing report of his daughter aged about 14 years, informing that she went to her school but did not return home. He informed the police that he received a call from the victim who said that a man had kidnapped her and kept her with him. The police conducted the search and then both man and victim were brought to the police station. The victim’s statement was recorded whereby she said that she knew that man for the last one year as he was residing in the neighbourhood. As per the victim, the said man used to follow her and then proposed for marriage and thereafter, both started talking and meeting each other.

On knowing about the aforesaid, the parents of the victim used to beat her and hence, the man took the victim from outside her school. They both started living in a rented accommodation and the man established physical relations with her without her consent even after her refusal to the same. On a pretext of marriage, he used to establish physical relations with her daily. Subsequently, they married each other and as a result, charges under Sections 363, 376(2)(n)(i) of the IPC and Section 6 of the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act, were framed. The man was convicted and sentenced for ten years’ rigorous imprisonment and aggrieved by this, he approached the High Court.

The High Court in view of the facts and circumstances of the case noted, “… once, the prosecution had succeeded in proving that the victim was a child as per definition of Section 2(d) of POCSO Act, the consent of the minor is of no consequence as she was only 14 years of age at the time of incident and about 12 years of age when first sexual assault was committed upon her. … The plea for leniency based on the accused's marital status and responsibility for two children does not find favour with this Court. It is disheartening to note that the accused, even while being in a relationship with a 14-year-old girl from the same locality, was aware about his responsibility towards his wife and children, but he chose to establish physical relations with the victim, thereafter, he had even married her, and they had continued to live in the same city under fake identities at different locations.”

The Court further noted that the appellant completely forgotten about his lawfully married wife and two children who were his prime responsibility. It said that the disturbing fact in this case of persuading the minor victim to leave her studies, to elope, and get married to him while the accused was already married and had two children together with the fact that the victim was of impressionable age is concerning, as the victim had to leave her studies due to this offence.

“Offences like the one before this Court today have profound social implications. In cases such as these, one witnesses the rising incidents of kidnapping of minor girls, who are subjected to sexual assault under the guise of performance of marriage. … The criminal justice system needs to have social responsibility approach, to meet the challenges which are posed to the society due to acts of criminal offenders”, observed the Court.

The Court also observed that the judgments in such cases must go beyond individual victim, while ensuring that societal interests are also not forgotten. It added that, when a girl has to leave her school and studies, the offender who is responsible for commission of offence of kidnapping and sexually assaulting her, not only breaks laws but also the career, future and dreams of a victim child.

“When a girl is forced to abandon her education due to such incidents as the present one, it causes a profound setback not only to an individual but to the society as a whole. In discussions surrounding the empowerment of women, education is rightly recognized as a fundamental pillar. However, when such incidents occur that force a girl to abandon her studies, the very notion of empowerment is compromised and society at large bears the consequences. … In the grand tapestry of societal progress, education acts as a thread that weaves together the fabric of empowerment. When this thread is frayed due to cases that force girls to abandon their studies, the very foundation of societal advancement is compromised. Creating a safe and supportive environment for girls to pursue their education is a collective responsibility that extends beyond individual incidents, criminal cases and victims”, concluded the Court.

Accordingly, the High Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the conviction of the appellant.

Cause Title- Mohd. Taslim Ali v. The State Govt. of NCT of Delhi (Neutral Citation: 2023:DHC:8091)

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