'So-called Victim' Is Leading Happy Life While Accused Faces Incarceration For Youthful Lust : Meghalaya HC

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The court was hearing a case wherein the accused was convicted under POCSO Act after eloping with a minor and later marrying her

In a recent decision, the Meghalaya High Court has modified the judgment and order passed by a Special Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Court in Shillong, granting partial relief to the appellant by reducing the sentence while maintaining the conviction under Section 366A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), dealing with the offence of procuration of minor girl and POCSO Act.

The court, presided over by Chief Justice S. Vaidyanathan and Justice W. Diengdoh, modified the original sentence imposed on the appellant. The court said “it is no doubt true that the offence under POCSO Act, 2012 has been made out to impose punishment on the accused /appellant.”

However, the court expressed a poignant sentiment regarding the nature of the case, emphasising that it revolves around a love affair, "unfortunately, the male member has been made as a scapegoat to undergo imprisonment for the mistakes / abetment committed by the two."

The court also made the observation that “While the so-called victim girl is leading a happy life, the accused / appellant has been undergoing incarceration and there is no provision under the Act to pardon a person, who has committed the offence out of ignorance. At the young age both had lust and infatuation.”

The case stemmed from an incident reported on April 5, 2013, when the father of the victim, a 14-year-old girl, filed a complaint alleging her disappearance. The victim was later found in Agartala, Tripura, along with the accused.

The trial court convicted the accused under Section 4 of the POCSO Act, 2012, and sentenced him to life imprisonment along with a fine of Rs. 10,000. Additionally, a ten-year imprisonment sentence under Section 366A of IPC was imposed, with a similar fine, both to run concurrently.

During the proceedings, the defence argued that “it is a case of love affair and the victim girl on her own volition, had left the house and married the accused, which is evident from the 161 statement of the victim girl.” Further, inconsistencies in the evidence regarding the victim's age and consent were highlighted. The accused/ appellant emphasised the absence of concrete evidence regarding her age, contending that “no birth certificate or any other documents had been produced on the side of the prosecution to prove the age of the victim girl” and claimed that the age of the victim would be more than 17 years, thus questioning the inclusion of POCSO charges.

The accused argued that due to the “absence of medical corroboration as to the age of a victim, then the benefit of doubt must be given in favour of the accused.”

During the proceedings, the learned Additional Advocate General K. Khan, representing the State, vehemently opposed the plea made by the appellant. Their argument was centered around the assertion that both the victim girl and the accused were in a romantic relationship and had voluntarily left their respective homes. Subsequently, they got married and engaged in sexual intercourse, which led to the registration of the FIR under the POCSO Act, 2012.

In support of their argument, reference was made to Section 42A of the POCSO Act, 2012. This section stipulates that the provisions of the POCSO Act are supplementary to, and not in derogation of, the provisions of any other law. It asserts that the POCSO Act will prevail over any other law in case of inconsistency. The purpose of referring to Section 42A was to emphasise that even though there might be provisions in other laws like Section 375 IPC Exception 2 (which allows non-consensual sexual intercourse by a husband with his wife between the ages of 15-18 years), the POCSO Act supersedes them in case of inconsistency.

Moreover, the respondents argued that the medical report provided by the doctor indicated findings consistent with recent sexual intercourse or assault. Additionally, they highlighted that the victim girl's age was confirmed through dental examination, which indicated her biological age to be 13 years and above. Based on these pieces of evidence, it was contended that the prosecution had conclusively proven the guilt of the accused beyond any reasonable doubt.

In light of these arguments, the State prayed for the dismissal of the Criminal Appeal, asserting that the prosecution had successfully established the guilt of the accused.

After considering both sides, the High Court found merit in the defence's contention regarding the victim's age. Records from Kendriya Vidyalaya indicated her date of birth as August 16, 1999, placing her at 14 years at the time of the incident. While acknowledging inconsistencies in the victim's testimony, the court highlighted the absence of forcible abduction.

The court noted that the incident occurred before the amendment to Section 4 of the POCSO Act, 2012, which mandated a minimum sentence of 20 years for penetrative sexual assault on children below 16 years. Given the circumstances, the court reduced the appellant's sentence to ten years' rigorous imprisonment and upheld the fine.

Consequently, the court instead of the previous life imprisonment term, ordered the appellant to undergo Rigorous Imprisonment for a period of ten years. Additionally, the court mandated the payment of a fine of Rs. 10,000/-. In the event of default, the appellant would face an additional one month of Simple Imprisonment.


Cause Title: Rinku Kumar Tyagi v State of Meghalaya [Crl.A.No.10 of 2023]