The Punjab and Haryana High Court granted permission for the examination of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) officials to verify the date of birth of the prosecutrix in a case registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act).

The Court emphasized the accused's right to a fair trial, noting that although the Aadhar card is primarily an identity proof, it includes the self-declared date of birth of the cardholder.

The Bench of Justice N. S. Shekhawat observed, “Even though, apparently, the Aadhar card can be exhibited as a proof of identity of Aadhar card holder and may not be be exhibited as proof of birth, however, the date of birth is recorded on the basis of self declaration given by the card holder/respondent. Thus, by producing the Aadhar card record of the prosecutrix, the accused could disprove the case of the prosecution”.

Advocate Mohit Garg appeared for the Petitioner, Deputy Advocate General Sheenu Sura appeared for the State and Advocate Varun Issar appeared for the Respondent.

The Petitioner approached the High Court by way of a Petition filed under Section 482 of the CrPC, seeking directions for the Trial Court to summon a witness from the Regional Office of UIDAI, in light of the amendment to Section 33(1) of the Aadhar Act 2016 (Act). The Petitioner, accused in a Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act) case, contested the prosecutrix's claim of being a minor.

The Court noted that the age of the prosecutrix was under contention. The Court noted that prosecution witness Ram Kumar the Clerk of the Municipal Corporation showcased evidence related to the birth entry but revealed that the name was added later, and the certificate was issued after the addition. The accused sought to summon the UIDAI official to prove the Aadhar card and relevant entry, stating it was essential for his defence.

The Court emphasized that the Aadhar card, though primarily an identity proof, includes the self-declared date of birth by the cardholder. Therefore, the Accused sought to produce the Aadhar card record of the prosecutrix to challenge the prosecution's case and disprove the alleged minor status. The Court observed the accused's right to present a defence and the need for a fair trial, noting that allowing the examination of the UIDAI official could contribute to a just decision in the case.

Even otherwise, the law is well settled that the accused should be given an adequate opportunity to lead his defence evidence and should be permitted to examine the witnesses of his choice to prove his defence unless for the reasons to be recorded, such prayer is made for the purpose of delaying the trial or for defeating the ends of justice”, the Bench noted.

Therefore, the Court granted permission to the Petitioner to present evidence by examining a witness/official from the Regional Office of UIDAI Authority. The witness was allowed to exhibit all information related to the Aadhar Card of the prosecutrix, excluding the core biometric information.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the Petition.

Cause Title: Jamshed v State of Haryana and others (2023:PHHC:157739)

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