Itanagar: Shocked by the granting of bail to a hostel warden alleged of sexually assaulting 21 children in Arunachal Pradesh, the Gauhati High Court suo moto cancelled the bail application granted to the accused by a Special POCSO court.
This development came following news articles regarding the grant of bail to accused Yumken Bagra, hostel warden of Government Residential School, Karo village, Monigong in Shi-Yomi district, who is alleged to have sexually assaulted 21 children (15 girls and 6 boys), aged 6 to 12 years between the years 2019 to 2022.
The accused, who was charged under Sections 10/12/14/(1)/15(1)/2 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 for allegedly committing sexual assault upon 21 children, was granted bail by the special court on February 23, 2023.
Chief Justice of Gauhati HC, Justice Sandeep Mehta, while registering suo moto cancellation of the bail application, ordered to list the matter for July 27 next.
The HC noted, “A perusal of the record reveals that the victims (21 in numbers) were all less than 15 years of age when the dastardly act of sexual assault by person in authority, i.e. the Hostel Warden accused herein, was committed upon them. A perusal of the charge-sheet, which contains brief reference to the statements of the victims, further reflects that the accused Warden forced the children staying as boarders in the Hostel to watch pornographic movies and repeatedly subjected them to sexual assault. The medical reports of most of the victims corroborate the fact that they were sexually assaulted as marks of violence were noticed on their private parts.”
“Since the offence under Section 376AB of the IPC has also been applied in the case, by virtue of Section 439(1A) of the CrPC it is mandatory to ensure presence of the informant or any person authorized by him at the time of hearing of the application for bail. However, perusal of the bail order, dated 23.02.2023 would reveal that the Special Court acted in gross disregard to this mandatory provision,” the HC further noted.
The Special Public Prosecutor, Arunachal Pradesh rejected the bail application on the ground that “releasing the accused on bail would prejudice the prosecution case as the accused holds the capacity to influence the witnesses and tampering the evidence, which was yet to be recorded.”
“However, the Special Court, without giving due consideration to these substantial objections of the learned Special Public Prosecutor, Arunachal Pradesh, granted bail to the accused in an absolutely casual manner despite observing the statements of the victims reveal a grave offence having been committed but the trial was yet to begin due to non-appearance of the co-accused Daniel Pertin,” it said.
“Flimsy reasons were assigned by the Special Court for granting bail to the accused who is the Hostel Warden, was entrusted with the duty of ensuring the safety of the children lodged in the Hostel acted in a demonic manner and sexually assaulted the young children throughout almost 3(three) years and also exposed them to pornographic material.
The trial of an accused charge-sheeted for such serious offences need not wait for the apprehension of the absconding accused and proceedings can even be continued by separating the trials”, said the HC, while directing to issue notice of the bail cancellation proceedings to the accused.
The HC also said, “The conscience of the Court has been shaken by the way in which a case of such grave magnitude and sensitive nature has been dealt with in a cavalier fashion by granting bail to the main accused without assigning any plausible reasons. The larger issue which bothers the mind of the Court is regarding safety of the victims of the ghastly act of sexual assault after the release of the accused on bail.”
The Chief Justice, meanwhile, felt that “there is an emergent need of sensitizing the Special Judges posted in the POCSO Courts across the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and Assam.
“The Director, Judicial Academy, Assam shall forthwith initiate the process for training and sensitizing of all Judicial Officers dealing with POCSO Act cases in the States of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh,” Justice Mehta said.