Directions to Judicial Officers for effective enforcement of POCSO

Delhi High Court: While hearing an appeal against conviction, the Division Bench of Gita Mittal, R.K. Guba, JJ. , issued detailed directions on framing of charges, compensation to victims, and exercise of jurisdiction by Judicial Officers in relation to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. In the instant case, the appellant was convicted for the offences punishable under Sections 354,  376, and 506 of IPC, and Section 4 of POCSO Act for assaulting and committing rape with his 14 years’ old step-daughter, making her pregnant with his child and subjecting her to criminal intimidation. He was directed to undergo rigorous life imprisonment under Section 376 IPC and Section 6 of POCSO Act; and rigorous imprisonment for a term of 5 and 7 years under Section 354 and Section 506 IPC respectively. Also, a compensation of Rs. 13 lakhs under Section 33(8) of POCSO Act read with Rule 7(2) of POCSO Rules and a compensation of Rs. 2 lakhs under Section 357-A CrPC read with Rule 7(3) and (4) of the POCSO Rules, were also directed to be paid.

The Court noted that the trial court has erred in charging the appellant with Section 4 of POCSO Act and Section 354 IPC when he was liable to be charged with graver offences punishable under Section 6 and Section 8 of POCSO Act respectively. Also, the appellant was neither tried nor convicted for the offence punishable under Section 6 of POCSO Act, yet he was illegally awarded punishment for same. The trial court also erred in sentencing the appellant under both Section 376 IPC and Section 6, POCSO, since a person cannot be punished twice for the same set of acts which collectively constitute an offence under two different provisions of law. Also, since the life imprisonment under Section 376(2) IPC means imprisonment for the remainder of convict’s life, trial court’s direction to run imprisonments under Section 354 and 506 IPC consecutively was redundant.

The Court further noted Rule 7(3) and (4) only provide guidance for ascertaining what can be recommended as compensation under Rule 7(2) read with Section 33(8) of POCSO. Thus, separate awards of compensation by trial Judge were not correct application of law. The Court also vacated the award of Rs. 13 lakhs, contending that no inquiry was made to arrive at the figure, and no arrangement was made for the recovery of the amount. However, it enhanced the compensation awarded under Section 375A CrPC from Rs. 2 lakhs to Rs. 3 lakhs. The Court also directed the trial courts to ensure that the identity of the victim, in cases involving sexual offences, is not disclosed anywhere on judicial record, and victims shall be referred by pseudonyms. [Gyan Prasad Pal v. State, Criminal Appeal No. 538 of 2016, decided on December 09, 2016]

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