The Kerala High Court recently quashed a case under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) citing settlement and marriage of the accused with the complainant.
The order was passed by Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas in a petition moved by the 27-year old accused.
The accused stood charged of Sections 3, 4, 5I and 6 of the POCSO Act (dealing with penetrative sexual assault) and Section 376(2)(n) (offence of committing rape repeatedly on the same woman) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The High Court was, however, informed that the matter had been amicably settled and that the complainant did not have any grievance against the petitioner. In this regard, an affidavit was filed by the complainant.
Further, it was submitted that the petitioner-accused and the defacto complainant were in love with each other and had also gotten married. Marriage certificate was also produced to buttress the claim.
In this backdrop, the Court went on to record:
“The offences alleged are purely personal in nature and no serious prejudice will be caused to the public if the settlement is recognised. Further, possibility of the case ending in conviction is also very remote, if not impossible due to the said settlement. Recognising the said settlement augurs better in the interests of all.”
Placing reliance on a number of case-laws such as Gian Singh v. State of Punjab, Narinder Singh and Others v. State of Punjab and Another and Yogendra Yadav and Others v. State of Jharkhand on the aspect of recognising settlements entered into by parties, the Court proceeded to quash the case against the petitioner. In doing so, it also noted that the petitioner does not have any criminal antecedents.
“In view of the settlement arrived at between the petitioner and the 2nd respondent and also due to their marriage, the petitioner is entitled to get the proceedings quashed under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. It is also pertinent to note that the petitioner does not have any criminal antecedents and no public interest is involved,” the order stated.
Advocate Arun Samuel represented the defacto complainant while advocate Jithin Babu A appeared for the accused.
Recently, Madhya Pradesh High Court judge, Justice Atul Sreedharan had highlighted how POCSO Act has led to the arrest and conviction of many young men who eloped with girls below the statutory age of consent.
“There was a case where a man was convicted for 10 years. It was statutory rape. The girl was about 16 years old and the man was 19 years old. They eloped. Two years later they were arrested and brought back. The man was tried and convicted for 10 years. The wife is there in the court room holding the child in the arms and she says ‘if you don’t suspend sentence then who is going to look after me and the child, the State?” Justice Sreedharan said.
POCSO, he said, was a knee-jerk reaction to the 2012 Delhi gang rape incident.
“As far as statutory rape (with consent) was concerned, greater thought should have gone into it rather than making it punishable with minimum ten years. It is unconscionable,” he had opined.