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This article has been written by Oishika Banerji of Amity Law School, Kolkata. This article discusses the recent ruling by Special POCSO Judge Shashi Kant Rai of Bihar with respect to the POCSO Act 2012. 

Introduction 

The number of cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 has increased dramatically recently. However, according to a recent poll conducted by the Praja Foundation, over 99 percent of POCSO cases are still pending and are scheduled to be tried in 2021. According to the data, there were 16,667 cases of crimes against children (CAC) before courts till December 2020, with 99 percent of them still undergoing trial. Special Courts for serious crimes against children have been formed, with a focus on POCSO cases that must be handled within a year. According to data, over 77 percent of POCSO cases in the capital city take 1-3 years to reach trial, with over 16 percent taking up to 5 years. Amidst these depressing statistics, the responsible duty executed by a Special POCSO Court Judge in Bihar while deciding the case of State v. Dilip Kumar Yadav (2021) provides a ray of hope for a better tomorrow. In just one day of trial, Judge Shashi Kant Rai handed down one of the quickest verdicts by sentencing a man to life imprisonment for raping an eight-year-old child. This article discusses the aforementioned case in its length and breadth. 

Relevance of the POCSO Act, 2012 in recent times

The POCSO Act of 2012 is a comprehensive law that provides for the protection of children from statutory offences, molestation, and pornography, while also safeguarding the interests of children at every stage of the judicial process by incorporating child-friendly mechanisms for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation, and speedy trial of offences through designated Special Courts. The said Act defines a child as someone under the age of eighteen, and defines various types of regulatory offences, such as penetrative and non-penetrative assault, as well as sexual harassment and pornography, and considers a statutory offence to be “aggravated” in certain circumstances, such as when the abused child is unstable, or when the abuse is committed by someone in a position of trust or authority toward the child, such as a loved one, police officer, or teacher. The POCSO Act, 2012 imposes severe penalties that are graded according to the severity of the offence, with a maximum sentence of life in prison and a fine.

Legislation alone is insufficient to prevent and protect minors from sexual offences. It is also necessary to comply with the Act’s obligations in a proper manner. Sensitization and understanding of such crimes, as well as sex education, are crucial in preventing minors from being involved in criminal activity. Child abuse should not be overlooked by the government or the judiciary, since it is the most serious criminal and social ill. Rather, it must try to prevent the same from happening. The judgment and the delivery of the same in light of the present case in discussion is a reflection of effective implementation of both substantive and procedural aspects of the POCSO Act, 2012. 

All in one day : in light of effective justice administration

A Special POCSO Judge Bench of Bihar consisting of Judge Shashi Kant Rai had disposed of the case of State v. Dilip Kumar Yadav (2021) within one day thereby carrying out all procedural stages, starting from its opening to that of examining all the ten witnesses presented by the prosecution followed by which the judgment was delivered on 4th October 2021. It is to be noted that in the year 2019, the Supreme Court of India had observed that there is no obstacle to a pre-sentencing hearing taking place the same day as the judgment of conviction,  if both the accused and the prosecution are prepared to present their views.

Facts of the case

On the evening of July 22nd, the aggrieved party went to wash the pots at a nearby tap. When she returned home after cleaning the pans, the accused, Dilip Yadav, took advantage of her isolation. The perpetrator snatched the victim’s hand and dragged her inside the residence, where she was raped forcibly. When the victim’s mother heard shouting, she dashed into the courtyard. After that, she entered the home and saw her daughter unconscious on the cot with her clothing drenched in blood. The victim was taken to the local doctor for treatment with the aid of the neighbouring people. The situation of the victim started worsening due to the continuous flow of blood.

Dilip Yadav, the accused, also arrived at the Purnia Hospital, where the victim was being treated. When the victim regained consciousness, the name of Dilip Yadav, who had committed the rape with her, came up. The accused departed the hospital after hearing the same. Furthermore, Dilip Yadav’s cousin brother offered the victim’s mother Rs 150,000 in exchange for the case being closed, which the victim’s father refused. The physicians at the hospital were the ones who had called the Forbesganj Police and told them about the occurrence.

Contentions of the prosecution 

  1. The Special PP found that the prosecution’s case had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, that the victim was under the age of 12, and that the medical evidence, as well as visual evidence, led to the accused’s guilt.  
  2. In her Examination in Chief, the victim testified that the accused Dilip Yadav raped her and went on to describe the circumstances in which she was raped by the accused. The Court noted that she had remained solid and consistent throughout the proceedings and that nothing had been elicited to undermine her integrity and veracity. 
  3. Under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, her evidence was determined to be compatible with her statement. The Court also considered the evidence of the victim’s 9-year-old brother, who stated that he saw the accused Dilip Yadav in the room where the incident occurred. He also testified that the accused smacked him and it is understandable that he fled the scene of the incident out of fear.

Contentions of the accused

  1. The accused, Dilip Yadav had pleaded not guilty of the charges framed against him which comprised of punishment for sexual assault under Section 376 AB of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and punishment for penetrative sexual assault as provided under Section 4 of POCSO Act, 2012. 
  2. The case of the defence was the general denial of the whole of the prosecution case and the accused had taken the plea of innocence at the time of recording his statement under Section 313 Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The defence did not adduce any evidence as well.
  3. The learned counsel appearing on behalf of the accused submitted that the medical report did not point to recent sexual intercourse or assault and penetration. It was therefore contended that the absence of the same neither can attract Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 nor the ingredient of Section 3 of the POCSO Act, 2012 to put in motion the penal provision of Section 376AB of IPC, 1860 and Section 6 of the POCSO Act, 2012.

Issues heard

  1. Whether the accused, Dilip Yadav committed rape upon Miss ‘X’ (victim) who is almost 8 years of age?
  2. Whether the accused committed aggravated penetrative sexual assault upon Miss ‘X’ (victim) who is below 12 years of age?

Judgment by the Special POCSO Judge, Bihar

The observations that were made by Judge Shashi Kant Rai while disposing of the case have been provided hereunder:

  1. The Court had observed that the victim while being testified for her Examination-in-Chief was steadfast and consistent regarding the accused and his actions with her throughout and nothing has been elicited in order to demolish her trustworthiness and credibility. Along with the minor victim, her brother and parents were also testified and both the parents had provided relevant answers and repeatedly established the fact that the accused, Dilip Yadav had raped their sister and daughter respectively. The victim’s testimonies in view of Sections 161 and 164 of the Cr.P.C. were consistent in nature. Similarly, the statement of the mother and father of the victim was also found consistent and no inconsistencies had been brought by the defence in the cross-examination.
  2. The Special Judge had observed that as the accused defence pleaded that there were no concerns about any hostility between the victim and the accused, the same could not be adopted at any level of argument without confronting the witness about any animosity. There was no logical explanation why the accused would be involved in a fake case of such gravity. If there was motivation, it could not be projected during the witnesses’ cross-examination. Despite her tender age, the victim was educated enough to recognize that the accused’s actions were terrible. The victim’s mother’s testimony also shows that she went to the scene of the crime after hearing the victim scream and witnessed bleeding from the victim’s private parts.
  3. On a detailed examination of the victim’s testimony, it was clear that the Investigating Officer had well proven the site of occurrence, and the accused had pointed out no error in the investigation, and the defect that had been brought out was not a substantial one. The location of the sexual event and the area where it occurred was not contested by the defence as well.
  4. The victim of the current case stated that after taking her into the house, the accused removed her panty, inserted and rubbed his penis in her vagina, which attracts the ingredients of Section 3 of the POCSO Act, 2012. The Judge further held that there was nothing to disbelieve her piece of testimony, which was reliable and acceptable beyond all reasonable doubt. In this case, the victim’s constant statement throughout the examination process, together with corroboration, renders her story a trustworthy and accepted piece of evidence.
  5. The victim said unequivocally that the perpetrator had put his penis into her vagina in the matter at hand. As a result, the male sex organ is implanted into the female sex organ, which meets the requirements of Sections 375(a), (b), and (c) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and the victim is under the age of 12, which meets the requirements of Section 376(AB) of the aforementioned Code. That the victim was originally a minor below the age of 12 years, had been shown beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution counsel and therefore clause (m) of Section 5 of the POCSO Act, 2012 and the components of Section 6 of the POCSO Act, 2012 were met with. Apart from that, the provision of the Cr.P.C. specified in Section 221(2) Cr.P.C. also allows flexibility to enhance the charge based on facts and evidence. Thus, on the reliance of this provision Section 6 of the POCSO Act, 2012 became relevant and admissible.
  6. Dilip Kumar Yadav was held guilty of committing an offence punishable under Section 376(AB) IPC and Section 6 of the POCSO Act, 2012. The Special POCSO Court’s Single Judge bench explained that because the Court was exercising its authority under Section 221 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 the accused could be found guilty under Section 6 of the POCSO Act, 2012, even if charges were not filed under that provision. 
  7. In addition to life in prison, Special POCSO Court Judge Shashi Kant Rai ordered the accused to pay a fine of Rs 50,000 and compensation of Rs 7 lakh for the survivor’s rehabilitation.

Conclusion 

The common phrase often associated with the Indian courts is ‘justice delayed is justice denied’. The discussed judgment has not only proven that fast justice delivery is beneficial but also encouraged other courts across the nation to accept the need for the speedy delivery of justice. The POCSO Courts especially have been set up to provide a quick rendering of justice and compensation to the aggrieved party. Delay in the same not only affects the purpose for its formation but also the spirit of the law in hand. Thus, this decision will remain a notable precedent. 

References


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