Would be injustice to separate well knitted family: Meghalaya High Court quashes POCSO case against man impregnating minor wife

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Court considered the fact that the couple, after being in a year-long love relationship, started living as husband and wife as per the custom and culture of the area, and the girl got pregnant subsequently.

The Meghalaya High Court recently quashed proceedings initiated under Section 5(j)(ii) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act against a man accused of impregnating a minor.

The man had started living as husband and wife with a girl aged 16 years following a year-long love relationship and subsequently, the girl got pregnant. Allegedly, the relationship was with the knowledge and consent of the family members of the girl and the cohabitation was according to the local custom and culture.

The bench of Justice W. Diengdoh observed that a case where it is apparent that a young couple is in a relationship where love is the deciding factor and the girl, aged between 16 to 17 years but below 18, procreates, would not shock the conscience of the court as opposed to a similar case involving a 12 or 13 year old girl child. 

Therefore, considering the overall circumstances of the case, Court opined that in this case, it would be an injustice to separate or divide a well-knitted family unit.

The court was dealing with a petition under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) for quashing the proceedings in the case against the man pending before the Special POCSO judge. 

The counsel for the petitioners- the man, his wife, and her mother, submitted that in October 2019, when the girl got sick owing to her pregnancy, she was taken to a hospital, where the medical officer informed the petitioners that he was duty bound to report the matter to the police station as the girl was still a minor. 

Thereafter, when the girl's mother reached the concerned Police Station, she was advised to lodge an FIR, which she did under Section 5(j) (ii) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012. Consequently, the man was arrested. The case is pending before the Special Court and is at the stage of evidence.

[Note: Section 5(j)(ii) of the POCSO Act defines 'aggravated penetrative sexual assault' as penetrative sexual assault on a girl child making her pregnant as a consequence of sexual assault.]

The counsel for the petitioner contended that so far only the evidence of the girl has been recorded and in the statement under Section 161 CrPC, she has stated that she was in a physical relationship with the accused since 2018 with her consent.

The counsel further submitted that the girl, in her statement under Section 164 CrPC and even in her evidence as prosecution witness before the Special Court, did not divert from her stand and maintained that the accused is now her husband and they are living together in a happy married life with their child.

Moreover, the counsel averred that the couple solemnized their marriage in May 2022 at a Church, when the girl attained the age of majority. 

However, the government counsel opposed the plea stating that though there was no strong opposition to the prayer of the petitioner, however, considering the fact that the case was at the evidence stage, the petitioner might be directed to face the trial and to await the conclusion.

Referring to an earlier case titled Skhemborlang Suting & Anr. V. State of Meghalaya & Anr. (2021), where under similar facts and circumstances the FIR was quashed, Court opined that on an overall consideration, the petitioners made out a case for quashing the proceeding in the instant case.

Accordingly, allowing the petition, Court set aside and quashed the case registered against the man. 

Case Title: Shri. Kwantar Khongsit & 2 Ors. v. State of Meghalaya & 4 Ors.