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Pollachi Sexual Assault Case: In the barbarous and shameful act that took place in the State of Tamil Nadu the first FIR that was registered by one of the Survivor was on February 24, 2019 and the battle for the same has been continuing.

Survivors’ Tale:

The survivor while giving the detailed account of the incident as stated by The Print“,

“the survivor recollects that she received a call from one Sabarirajan, alias Riswandh, whom she knew. Sabarirajan called her over for lunch at Unjavelampatti area of Pollachi but when she got there, he allegedly asked her to accompany him in a car. The survivor has alleged that the three other accused — Thirunavukkarasu, Vasanthakumar and Satish — were already in the car.

Her account states that she trusted Sabarirajan and entered the car but the men drove her to a secluded place near Kalpana mills in Pollachi, where Satish forcibly removed her clothes while the other three filmed the act. They allegedly threatened her, extorted her and ordered her to submit to their “desires”, which she flatly refused. At this time, they snatched her gold chain and abandoned her, before driving off.

The accused then allegedly called the woman over the next few days demanding money by blackmailing that they would release the video. Unable to bear the torture, the survivor finally informed her parents who helped her file a police complaint.”

“The four accused — Sabarirajan, Thirunavukkarasu, Sathish and Vasanthkumar — have now been booked under sections 354A (sexual harassment), 354B (assault or use of criminal force against woman with intent to disrobe), and 394 (robbery) of the IPC; section 66E of the IT Act (violation of privacy); and section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Sexual Harassment of Women Act (sexual harassment).”

It has been stated that this racket has been continuing the shameful act since a very long time.

Madras High Court has ordered for an amount of Rs 25 lakhs to be paid by the Tamil Nadu Government due to the revelation the name of the survivor on several occasions. Court has also directed disciplinary action against the officials.

The Court directed the centre and state to submit a status report on its 2012 order to set up a “One Stop Centre” for dealing with rape cases and counselling of survivors.

[Source: Print & NDTV]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Court of Appeal of Tanzania: The Bench of K.M. Mussa, S.A. Lila and R.K.Mkuye, JJ., decided in an appeal concerning the conviction of the appellant for the offence of “Rape” contrary to Sections 130(1) (2) (e) and 131 (1) of the Penal Code, Cap 16 R.E. 2002.

Appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment and for the said his appeal to the High Court was unsuccessful. Hence, the second appeal.

In the evening of the fateful day, the appellant went to Beatrice Ishiaka’s (PW1) home and took PW1 together with Pascal Mode to the orange farm to harvest oranges. While at the farm the appellant ordered PW1 to sit down and get the money. However, the appellant raped her. Thereafter, PW1 went home and informed her grandmother (PW3) to have been raped by the appellant. The matter was reported to the relevant authorities which led to the appellant’s arrest.

Appellant denied to have raped PW1 and lodged a memorandum of appeal comprising 4 grounds of appeal.

The Court of Appeal while reaching to a conclusion went through the grounds of appeal, facts and the material on record in the most careful manner and stated that

Court is required to be cautious and very slow to disturb the concurrent findings of facts of the two courts below. The Court could only do that if there are completely misapprehensions of the substance, nature and quality of evidence which result into fair conviction.”

Further, the Court on examining the grounds of appeal mentioned by the appellant dealt with only ground number 3 and 4 that touched the “credibility of witnesses” and the “standard of proof”.

Placing reliance on the case of Aloyce Mgovano v. Republic, Criminal Appeal No. 182 of 2011; Court dealt with “credibility of witnesses”. In the said case, Court also cited Shabani Daudi v. Republic, Criminal Appeal No. 28 of 2000; wherein it was stated that,

Credibility of a witness can also be determined in two other ways: one, when assessing the coherence of the testimony of the witness. Two when the testimony of that witness is considered in relation with the evidence of other witnesses, including that of the accused person. In these two other occasions the credibility of a witness can be determined even by a second appellate court when examining the findings of the first appellate court.”

Court stated that evidence of PW1 was taken without the oath. This is a situation where corroboration was required. It is settled law that unsworn evidence most often requires corroboration. Unfortunately, Pascal Mode who was with PW1 did not testify. PW2 and PW3 cannot be taken to corroborate her evidence as their evidence was mere hearsay as regards to who raped PW1. It was also observed that even if PW 3 saw some features suggesting that PW 1 was raped, she could not be in a position to know who did it.

Hence, the Court concluded that, unfortunately, no reasons for failure to call Pascal were given as he was a material witness in the present case which led the Court to agree with appellant and merit was found in the stated grounds. Appeal was allowed and conviction quashed and set aside, with the release of the appellant. [Raphael Mhando v. Republic, Criminal Appeal No. 54 of 2017, Order dated 01-03-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dr. AK Sikri, SA Nazeer and MR Shah, JJ has acquitted 6 death row convicts and has directed reinvestigation in a crime that was committed in June, 2003.

The Court was hearing the case where 5 people were brutally killed and a woman was raped. However, the accused were falsely implicated in the matter as they were all nomadic tribes coming from the lower strata of the society and are very poor labourers.

Lapse on part of investigating agency:

Noticing that an injured prime witness identified four named persons from the album of the photographs of notorious criminals but nothing was  on record whether those four persons were arrested or not or any further investigation was carried out with respect to those four persons, the Court said that there was a serious lapse on the part of the investigating agency, which has affected the fair investigation and fair trial, and therefore, the fundamental rights of the accused guaranteed under Articles 20 & 21 of the Constitution of India have been violated. It said:

“The benefit of the lapse in investigation and/or unfair investigation cannot be permitted to go to the persons who are real culprits and in fact who committed the offence.”

The Court, hence, directed the Chief Secretary, Home Department, State of Maharashtra to:

  • look into the matter and identify such erring officers/officials responsible for failure of a prosecution case, on account of sheer negligence or because of culpable lapses, real culprits are out of the clutches of law and because of whose lapses the case has resulted into acquittal in a case where five persons were killed brutally and one lady was subjected to even rape.
  • take departmental action against those erring officers/officials, if those officers/officials are still in service. The instant direction shall be given effect to within a period three months from the date of the order.

The Court also directed the prosecution to conduct further investigation under Section 173(8) against those four persons identified by the injured prime witness so that real culprits should not go unpunished.

Compensation to falsely implicated persons:

The Court also took note of the statement of a psychiatrist who had examined one of the accused who was subsequently found to be a juvenile. The juvenile had clearly opined that he has lived under sub-human conditions for several years. He was kept in isolation in solitary confinement with very restricted human contact and under perpetual fear of death. He was only allowed to meet his mother, and that too only infrequently. He was not even allowed to mix with other prisoners. Therefore, all the accused remained under constant stress and in the perpetual fear of death. As they were facing the death penalty, they might not have availed any other facilities of parole, furlon etc. All of them who were between the age of 25-30 years (and one of the accused was a juvenile) have lost their valuable years of their life in jail. Their family members have also suffered. Considering the aforesaid facts and circumstances, the Court directed:

“The State of Maharashtra to pay a sum of Rs.5,00,000/- to each of the accused by way of compensation, to be deposited by the State with the learned Sessions Court within a period of four weeks from today and on such deposit, the same be paid to the concerned accused on proper identification.”

[Ankush Maruti Shinde v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 317, decided on 05.03.2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: The Bench of Gita Mittal, CJ and Tashi Rabstan, J. dismissed the application filed to assail the decision passed by the Trial Court wherein the respondent was acquitted of the charges under Sections 376, 363 and 344 of the RPC for wrongfully restraining and raping the prosecutrix for several days.

The facts of the case are that an application was moved by the father of the prosecutrix alleging that his daughter referred to as the ‘prosecutrix’ was kidnapped by someone on 3-12-2015 and that she could not be traced. The prosecutrix was alleged to have been recovered on 15-12-2015 from a bus stand. The respondent was arrested in the matter based on the statement made by the prosecutrix. The case came before the Trial Court wherein it was held that the prosecutrix was aged between 18 to 20 years on the date of the offence and not a minor and hence the aspect of kidnapping from the custody of the lawful guardian, as was envisaged under Section 363 of the RPC, was not made out. The Trail Court thus acquitted the respondent of the first charge.  The second charge which was laid against the respondent was a commission of offences under Section 344 of the RPC with regard to the unlawful confinement of the prosecutrix for ten or more days and under Section 376 RPC for having raped her during this period. The Trial Court considered the entire evidence and found that the prosecutrix was in active contact of the respondent from September, 2015 and that she voluntarily left her home in his company to go with him on  3-12-2015 with her documents. Marriage was the solemnized. The applicant was acquitted since consent was shown.

The Court dismissed the appeal upholding the settled law that the appellate Court will not lightly interfere with the judgment of acquittal. [State v. Rajinder Paul Singh, 2019 SCC OnLine J&K 77, Order dated 30-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: The criminal appeal was filed before a Division Bench of P.K. Jaiswal and Anjuli Palo, JJ. by the accused to set aside the conviction and sentence passed under Section 363 of Penal Code and criminal reference to confirm death penalty awarded by First Addl. Sessions Judge, Nagod for a crime under Section 376(a)(b) of Penal Code.

Accused was convicted and was given death penalty for gruesome rape of a 4-year-old girl. Trial Court had charged the appellant under Sections 363, 376(a)(b) of Indian Penal Code and Section 5(j)(n) of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. Trial Court had found him guilty. Appellant in this appeal challenged the findings of the Trial Court on the ground that there was no direct evidence against him and that its finding was contrary to the law and facts. The question before the court was whether the trial court had rightly convicted accused and whether this case comes under rarest of the rare category. High Court did not find any mistake while examining of the DNA and the testimony of the witnesses was also found to be reliable. Thus, Court viewed that Trial Court had rightly convicted appellant. Thereby, his conviction was maintained. Appellant urged that he was only aged about 28 years and had no previous criminal conviction.

High Court observed that a person who was performing the pious duty of a teacher had to nurture the character and morality in children and not commit a crime against them. Court after considering the facts and circumstances of the case along with the mitigating circumstances concluded that this case comes under the category of the “rarest of the rare case”. Therefore, this appeal was dismissed and sentenced to death penalty was affirmed. [Mahendra Singh Gond v. State of M.P., 2019 SCC OnLine MP 200, dated 25-01-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

High Court of South Africa, Eastern Cape Local Division: This case was filed before a Bench of G.G. Goosen, J. where Court dealt with the sentencing of accused who was convicted for kidnapping, rape and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

The two accused were convicted of kidnapping, robbery and rape. It was found that Accused 1 had already been convicted on 4 occasions. With respect to Accused 1 Court stated that- “He is however not a youth whose callow immaturity might explain his aberrant conduct.” He had experience of the effects of punishment and despite that, it did not cause him to change his behaviour which mandates a heavy punishment. The impact of the crime subjected to the victim, outweighs the personal circumstances of the accused. Accused 2 was a minor and thus was to be dealt with under the Child Justice Act, 2008. Accused 2 was of 16 years of age at the time of the commission of a crime. He had no previous convictions and the life he had been through showed that he was a child used to drugs and in need of care.

High Court found direct sentencing of imprisonment to be appropriate. According to the Act, imprisonment was to be given as a last resort and the Court viewed the case of Accused 2 to be one falling within the scope of imprisonment. [State v. Donovan Heugh, Case No. CC 17 of 2018, dated 25-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: This reference was made before a Division Bench of P.K. Jaiswal and B.K. Shrivastava, JJ. by ASJ, District Sagar, along with the proceedings and record for confirmation of death sentence under Section 366(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, while the Criminal Appeal was preferred by the appellant who was convicted by the judgment passed by the ASJ, for the offence under Sections 450, 376(2)(i), 376(D), 376(A) of IPC and Section 5(g)/6 of POCSO Act.

Prosecutrix was a girl who was raped and killed by appellant and a juvenile due to which she succumbed to her injuries and a case for murder under Section 302 IPC was filed. As a result of a trial conducted before ASJ, the appellant was convicted. The trial court after passing the judgment referred the case for confirmation of death sentence under Section 366 of Criminal Procedure Code. The appellant also filed the appeal against the judgment impugned. It was proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offence but the question before Court was whether it was rarest of the rare case where the death penalty could be confirmed.

High Court found no mitigating circumstances in favour of appellant and observed that under the circumstances of this case the only punishment which the accused deserve is death, stating that this death sentence should be considered as a measure of social necessity and also a means of deterring other potential offenders. Therefore, on finding the case coming under rarest of the rare category, the death sentence awarded to the appellant by the Trial Court was affirmed. [Rabbu (Confirmation of Death Sentence), In re, 2019 SCC OnLine MP 161, decided on 17-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: The Division Bench of A.M. Shaffique and P. Somarajan, JJ. was hearing a death reference tagged along with a criminal appeal filed by the accused challenging order of the Sessions Judge vide which he was convicted and sentenced to be hanged by the neck till his death for offences under Sections 376, 302, 449 and 392 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The accused respondent trespassed into the house of a minor girl aged 15 years, raped and murdered her; and thereafter committed theft of a gold necklace and a gold ring from her body. The Court observed that there was no eye-witness to the incident and the case rested purely on circumstantial evidence. However, scientific material showed that the DNA found in spermatozoa taken from victim’s vagina matched with the DNA profile of the accused. This clearly proved that the accused had raped the victim. Further, the missing chain and ring were recovered from a financier where the accused had pledged the same under a different name. Thus, the prosecution had proved all circumstances forming the chain beyond a reasonable doubt and the only hypothesis that could be arrived at by the Court was that the accused was involved in the crime.

It was noted that this was a case where the victim was subjected to forcible sexual intercourse, and lust and greed of the accused had resulted in rape and murder of a minor girl. However, the accused did not have any criminal antecedents; there was no pre-meditation and intention to commit crime would have developed all of a sudden. The offence might have been committed in a sudden rush of blood i.e., to commit robbery and rape. The accused, aged 29 years at the time of the incident, had married twice and had children.

In view of all the facts, it was opined that instead of the death penalty, the punishment of life imprisonment would meet the ends of justice. However, taking into account gravity of the offence, the Court relied on the dictum in Swamy Shraddananda (2) v. State of Karnataka, (2008) 13 SCC 767 and held that no remission be granted to the accused for a period of 25 years. [State v. Rajesh Kumar, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 43, Order dated 08-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

“It took me quite a long time develop the voice and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.”

-Madeleine Albright

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Ranjit V. More and Bharati H. Dangre, JJ. confirmed the death sentence awarded to the accused in the gruesome case of rape and murder of a 23 year old software engineer in Mumbai.

The incident

The victim was a software engineer working in Mumbai. She took a leave in December 2013 went to meet her parents in Andhra Pradesh. She was returning on 4 January 2014. Next morning, when her train was scheduled to reach Mumbai, her father attempted to contact her but without success. On the same day, a missing complaint was lodged with police. Thus began a frantic search for the victim. After 11 days, on 16 January, her half-burnt body was traced in the bushes on express highway.

The investigation

An FIR under Section 302 and 201 was registered. CCTV footage from Lokmanya Tilak Terminus was obtained which revealed that the victim walked out of the railway station on 5 January along with a stranger who was carrying her trolley bag. The man was identified as one Chandrabhan Sanap (accused) and was arrested. On his disclosure, articles belonging to the victim as well motorcycle on which she was driven to the crime spot was seized.

Prosecution case and the trial court decision

The accused was charged for abducting the victim on 5 January 2014 at 5.30 am from LTT Station on the pretext of dropping her at the hostel and thereafter he drove her on his bike to crime spot and committed rape on her. He was charged with Sections 364, 366, 376(2)(m), 376-A, 392 read with Section 397, 302 and 201 IPC. After the conclusion of the trial, the trial court convicted the accused and sentenced him to be hanged by neck till he is dead.

Confirmation case and appeal to the High Court

As per Section 28(2) CrPC, on imposition of death sentence, the matter has to be referred for confirmation of the High Court. The confirmation case was tagged with the appeal filed by the accused against the judgment of the trial court. The case of prosecution was based on circumstantial evidence and the prosecution had relied on 39 witnesses to establish its case along with several documentary evidence. After considering the evidence in detail including witness testimony, CCTV footage, DNA reports, post-mortem report, etc., the Court was of the opinion that prosecution was able to establish a complete chain of circumstances by cogent and reliable evidence. It was held that the prosecution had established the case against the accused beyond reasonable doubt.

Death Sentence

In order to decide the question of confirmation of the death sentence, the Court relied on Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, (1980) 2 SCC 684 and after praying due regard to both crime and criminal, drew a balance sheet of aggravating and mitigating factors. The Court observed,

” The way in which a society protects its victims of crime is a barometer of that society’s standards of human dignity and decency. When a woman in the society is raped, it is not only she who is subjected to rape, but it is the tendency that is reflected to overpower, to violate and to crash the dignity of the entire woman creed in the society.”

It was further observed that for a small pleasure, a young woman who had just stepped into womanhood was done to death with extreme vileness. The abhorrent, grotesque and perverted manner in which she was murdered by the accused was also taken note of. In Court’s specific opinion, although ‘reformative theory’ is recognised as one of the leading theory for imposition of penalty but undue stress on the same would defeat basic tenets of imposition of penalty where crime committed obnoxiously shocks the collective conscience of the society. Furthermore, merely because behaviour of accused as under-trial prisoner was good, could not be a ground to absolve him of the most gruesome act he committed. In the present case, the only fault of victim was that she fell prey to the sinister design of the accused to fulfill his lust. As such, the Court upheld the death sentence awarded to the accused holding it to be ‘rarest of rare’ case which amounts to the devastation of social trust, shocks social conscience and calls for extreme penalty of capital punishment.

Accordingly, the death sentence was confirmed and the criminal appeal filed by the accused was dismissed. [State of Maharashtra v. Chandrabhan Sudam Sanap, 2018 SCC OnLine Bom 6576, dated 20-12-2018]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa: This appeal was filed before a 5-Judge Bench comprising of Tshiqi, Swain and Dambuza, JJA., Mokgohloa and Mothle, AJJA.,  against a sentence of 5-year imprisonment for commission of offence of rape.

Respondent was indicted on three counts i.e. of housebreaking with intend to rob, rape read with Section 51(1), and robbery. He was convicted of theft and rape in terms of Section 51 (2) of the Minimum Sentences Act. Respondent submitted his personal circumstances that he was 19 years old studying in school Grade 10 and first offender of rape. It was submitted that he was under influence of liquor at the time of commission of crime. Trial Court on the basis of the above circumstances found personal circumstances of the respondent amounting to substantial and compelling circumstances and sentenced him 5 years imprisonment. Petitioner contended that respondent’s conviction of rape rendered him liable for punishment under Section 51(2) of the Minimum Sentences Act which prescribes a minimum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment.

Therefore, appeal against sentence was upheld, sentence was set aside and replaced with a minimum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment. [Director of Public Prosecutions Limpopo v. Koketso Motloutsi, Case No. 527 of 2018, dated 04-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Observing the approach of the trial court to be wholly misdirected and erroneous, a Single Judge Bench comprising of R.K. Gauba, J. allowed a criminal appeal setting aside the judgment of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted under Section 376 IPC for raping his daughter.

During the pendency of the appeal, which was finally adjudicated after 17 years it was presented, the appellant died and the appeal was prosecuted by his wife. The appellant was alleged to have committed rape on prosecutrix- her daughter on several occasion. Resultantly, she became pregnant after which the appellant asked her to write a suicide note implicating one Bhushan and commit suicide. Thereafter, the prosecutrix went missing and subsequently, she lodged FIR against the appellant. Notably, at relevant time, the prosecutrix was a minor and the appellant had also filed an FIR under Section 363 IPC alleging that Bhushan had kidnapped her. However, the FIR lodged by the appellant was lodged without any probe and he was tried and convicted under Section 376 by the trial court. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant filed the instant appeal.

The High Court perused the record and was of the opinion that this was a case of one-sided probe and unfair trial. The version of the prosecutrix was highly questionable and even witness testimony was suspicious. The basis for giving a clean chit to Bhushan was left to the imagination. Collection of evidence was also unsatisfactory. Also, the appellant cried foul from day one and demanded DNA test to be done. The police did not listen and even the trial court did not pass any direction. The Court deplored the inaction on part of all concerned. It was held that the conviction of the appellant could not be allowed to stand. Resultantly, the appeal was allowed and the appellant was acquitted of the charge. [Kapil Kumar Beri v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2018 SCC OnLine Del 13023, dated 19-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Hima Kohli and Manoj Kumar Ohri, JJ. dismissed an appeal filed against the judgment of the trial court whereby the accused was acquitted of the offences under Sections 376 and 506 IPC.

The prosecutrix had alleged that the accused made false promises of marrying her and established a physical relationship with her forcefully. However, the trial court acquitted the accused of all the charges holding that the deposition of the prosecutrix was insufficient to prove the guilt of the accused. Aggrieved thereby, the prosecutrix filed the present criminal leave petition.

On perusal of the record, the High Court was of the view that the impugned judgment did not suffer from any infirmity. It considered the printout of WhatsApp chats and transcription of the telephonic conversation between the parties which were duly admitted by the prosecutrix in cross-examination. The chat and conversation amply demonstrated that the prosecutrix consented for a physical relationship out of her own free will and without any inducement. Thereafter, she had second thoughts about marrying the accused and in fact, she was threatening to falsely implicate and defame him. Given such facts and circumstances, the Court declined to interfere and the petition was dismissed. [Ritu v. State,2018 SCC OnLine Del 12914, Order dated 11-12-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ. laid down directions and threw light in a very precise and analytical manner on two very important and pertinent issues:

  • Identity of adult victims of rape and children who are victims of sexual abuse should be protected so that they are not subjected to unnecessary ridicule, social ostracisation and harassment;
  • Issues relating to non-disclosure of the name and identity of a victim falling within the purview of the POCSO.

The present judgment has been in a detailed manner written down in two parts dealing with the above-stated issues separately.

“Victim of a sexual offence, especially a victim of rape, is treated worse than the perpetrator of the crime.”

The bench while stating that a victim of rape is treated like a “pariah” and ostracised from society, stated that many times cases of rape do not even get reported because of the false notions of so-called ‘honour’ which the family of the victim wants to uphold.

“Victims’ first brush with justice is an unpleasant one where she is made to feel that she is at fault; she is the cause of the crime.”

Court made it clear that they do not want to in any manner curtail the right of the defence to cross-examine the prosecutrix, but the same should be done with a certain level of decency and respect at large. Efforts have been made to sensitise the courts, but experience has shown that despite the earliest admonitions, the first as far back in 1996, State of Punjab v. Gurmit Singh, (1996) 2 SCC 384, the Courts even today reveal the identity of the victim. Further, the Court referred to Section 228A IPC (Disclosure of identity of the victim of certain offences etc.), Section 327 CrPC, 1973 (Courts should be open and normally public should have access to the Courts) , stated that vide the Amendment Act of 1983, cases of rape, gang rape etc. were excluded from the category of cases to be tried in open Court. Sub-Section (1) of Section 228A states that any person who makes known the name and identity of a person who is an alleged victim of an offence falling under Sections 376, 376A, 376AB, 376B, 376C, 376DA, 376DB or 376E commits a criminal offence. Sub-Section (2) of Section 228A is making known the identity of the victim by printing or publication under certain circumstances described therein.  Bench making it clear that the phrase “matter which may make known the identity of the persondoes not solely mean that only the name of the victim should not be disclosed but it also means that the identity of the victim should not be discernible from any matter published in the media. The clarity also lead to the bench stating that, no person can print or publish the name of the victim or disclose any facts which can lead to the victim being identified and which should make her identity known to the public at large.

Next pointer on which the Court threw light was on the investigation taken by police officers, they should also as far as possible either use a pseudonym to describe the victim unless it is absolutely necessary to write down her identity. FIR relating the offence of rape against women or offences against children falling within the purview of POCSO shall not be put in the public domain. Memos or Correspondence exchanged or issued with the name of the victim in it should not be disclosed to media and not be furnished to any person under RTI Act, 2015.

Another vexatious issue is in regard to the “next kin of the victim” giving an authority to the chairman or secretary of recognized welfare institutions to declare the name of the victim—For the stated issue, Court was of the opinion that, it is not necessary to disclose the identity of the victim to arouse public opinion and sentiment, If a campaign has to be started to protect the rights of the victim, it can be done so without disclosing her identity. Therefore, the Court stated that even under the authorization of the next of the kin, without permission of the competent authority, the identity should not be disclosed.

Sub-Section (3) of Section 228A IPC, lays down that nobody can print or publish any matter in relation to any proceedings within the purview of Section 228A IPC and Section 327 (2) CrPC.

If the accused is acquitted and the victim of the offence wants to file an appeal under Section 372 CrPC, the victim can pray to the Court that she may be permitted to file a petition for the same under a pseudonymous name.

Issue 2- Issues which relate to non-disclosure of the name and identity of a victim falling within the purview of the POCSO.

India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child, 1989 and Parliament thought it fit to enact POCSO in the year 2012, which specifically deals with sexual offences against all children.”

Section 24(5) and Section 33(7) makes it amply clear that the name and identity of the child is not to be disclosed at any time during the course of investigation or trial and the identity of the child is protected from the public or media.

Section 37 states that trial is to be conducted in camera which would mean that the media cannot be present; the purpose of POCSO is to ensure that the identity of the child is not disclosed unless the Special Court in writing permits such disclosure and disclosure can only be made if it is in the interest of the child, for instance,e the identity of the child cannot be established even by the investigating team, then the permission of photograph to be published can be given by the Special Court of Investigative Team.

Learned amicus curiae placed that the definition of ‘interest of child’ has not been given anywhere to which the Court stated that it is neither feasible nor would it be advisable to clearly lay down what is the meaning of the phrase “interest of the child”, as each case will have to be dealt within its own factual scenario.

The bench further detailed out that media has to be not only circumspect but a duty has been cast upon the media to ensure that it does nothing and gives no information which could directly or indirectly lead to the identity of the child being disclosed.

“Media should be cautious not to sensationalise the same.”

Sensationalising such cases may garner Television Rating Points (TRPs) but does no credit to the credibility of the media.

A child belonging to a small village, the disclosure of the name of the village may contravene the provisions of Section 23(2) POCSO because it will just require a person to go to the village and find out who the child is—Media is not only bound to not disclose the identity of the child but by law is mandated not to disclose any material which can lead to the disclosure of the identity of the child and such violation would amount to an offence under Section 23(4). Another point raised by the amicus curiae was that the publication should only mean a living child to which the Supreme Court was in total disagreement, as in the case of dead victims, the factor which was to be kept in mind was the dignity of the dead which they cannot be denied of.

The decision of Calcutta High Court in, Bijoy v. State of W.B.,2017 SCC OnLine Cal 417, detailed out the reasons while dealing with the provisions of POCSO and held that neither during investigation nor during the trial name of the victim should be disclosed. The judgment also laid down directions to ensure that the provisions of the law are followed in letter and spirit, and the fundamental rights of child victims are protected, to which the Supreme Court bench in the present case is in agreement.

The Bench requested the Chairpersons and Members of all the Juvenile Justice Committee of all the High Courts to go through the judgment of the Calcutta High Court stated above and issue directions keeping in view the needs of each High Court/State. The Court also detailed out the establishments of  “One Stop Centres”, by taking inspiration from “BHAROSA” in Hyderabad which can be used as a model for other one-stop centres in the country.

Thus, the Court disposed of the petitions and based on the above-stated discussion laid down 9-directions which can be referred to in the judgment. [Nipun Saxena v. Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine SC 2772, decided on 11-12-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of R. Banumathi and Indira Banerjee, JJ. while setting aside the judgment of the Delhi High Court which had reversed the conviction under Section 376(2)(g) recorded by the trial court stated that, “Even assuming that the prosecutrix was of easy virtue, she has a right to refuse to submit herself to sexual intercourse to anyone.”

The factual matrix of the case draws a picture in which it is stated that the present appeals came up on account of the Delhi High Court’s judgment which had allowed the respondents/accused conviction under Section 376(2)(g) IPC to be set aside. The prosecutrix alleged that when the respondents had demanded bidi from the prosecutrix and on her refusal for the same, she was raped by them, in which Respondent 2 was responsible for holding her hands and the other three men had committed rape on her turn by turn. On raising alarm in this situation, PW-3, i.e. mother of the prosecutrix saw those men coming out of the jhuggi while prosecutrix was lying unconscious.

Further, the charges were framed against the respondents under Section 376(2)(g) IPC to which they pleaded guilty. Respondents had submitted that prosecutrix was of bad character and was indulging in prostitution and on complaining about the same, the respondents were falsely implicated for the rape charge. The trial court had convicted the respondents under Section 376(2)(g) IPC but, further, the High Court had allowed the appeal against the trial court judgment by acquitting the respondent and directing to initiate action against the police officers concerned.

The Supreme Court on noting the observations and submissions and also the materials on record stated that, the trial court had rightly stated that “even if the allegations of the accused that the prosecutrix is of immoral character are taken to be correct, same does not give any right to the accused persons to commit rape.”

“Even in cases where there is some material to show that the victim was habituated to sexual intercourse, no inference like the victim being a woman of ‘loose character’ is permissible to be drawn from that circumstance alone.”

Hence, High Court erred in placing reliance upon the complaints allegedly made against the prosecutrix to doubt her version and to hold that a false case has been foisted. Further, the High Court was also not right in issuing the direction to lodge a complaint against the police officials, which was hereby set aside and the appeal preferred was allowed. [State (NCT of Delhi) v. Pankaj Chaudhary,2018 SCC OnLine SC 2256, decided on 30-10-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of Madan B. Lokur and Uday Umesh Lalit, JJ. gave a cut off date for finalizing the “Standard Operating Procedure” for cyber police portal-handling complaints involving child pornography-child sexual abuse material, rape/gang rape, and obscene contents.

It has been stated that the Union of India has prepared SOP concerning the above-stated issue. The first version of the said SOP was prepared on June 18, 2018, and a revision followed on July 12, 2018. The comments and suggestion concerning the same are being received from time to time and this is a continuous process. In view of these improvements being a continuous process, Supreme Court finalised 15 November 2018 as the cut off date for the finalization of the SOP.

Further, the bench stated that the copy of SOP should be circulated amongst the intermediaries for the purpose of any suggestions, etc. before 9 November 2018 to Ministry of Home Affairs. Union of India has been directed to file an affidavit indicating the number of complaints received an the action been taken for the same.

The matter has been further listed for 22-11-2018. [Prajwala Letter Dated 18.2.2015 Videos of Sexual Violence and Recommendations, In Re, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 2111Order dated 22-10-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ., while delivering an order in concerning the extremely disturbing “Bihar Shelter Home Rape case” highlighted few significant pointers to be noted by the CBI in their investigation along with the removal of blanket ban on media in regard to the reporting of the case.

The Bench on considering the status report filed by CBI in the Patna High Court, placed down a few pointers which needed to be looked upon carefully, which were as follows:

  • Mr Brajesh Kumar Thakur who is the in charge of Sewa Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti is a very influential person and that is the reason people in the neighborhood are scared to complain against him. CBI needs to look into the antecedents, connections, and influence of the person concerned.
  • Sewa Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti has received for about 4.5 Crores from the State of Bihar over a period of ten years for their activities. It is necessary that the IT department should look into the income and assets of Mr Brajesh Thakur and indeed of the NGO.
  • The next pointer to the list was that the Status report states the transfer of some girls by the Social Welfare Department from the Shelter Home. The transfer indicates that the Social Welfare Department was aware of the unsavoury activities in the Shelter Home and that may have been the reason for the transfer of the victims. Therefore, in this regard, CBI should seize the record of the said department and further carry out the investigation. Court asked the State of Bihar to file an affidavit stating the reason for the transfer of those girls.

Further, the Court while removing the blanket ban order passed by the Patna High Court in regard to the media reporting stated that “Entire issue needs to be balanced and looked at in the broader view of the criminal justice and freedom of the press.” Therefore, the Court asked for the assistance of Press Council of India, News Broadcasting Standards Authority, Editors Guild and the Indian Broadcasting Federation.

Concluding the order, the bench stated that in the interest of all the victims of sexual abuse and violence, we restrain the electronic media from telecasting or broadcasting the images of the victims in morphed or blurred form also the victims should not be interviewed. The matter is listed for 04-10-2018. [Nivedita Jha v. State of Bihar, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1616, order dated 20-09-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Rajasekhar Mantha, J. allowed an appeal filed by the appellant against of the order of the trial court whereby he was convicted under Section 376 IPC.

The prosecution case was that the appellant had committed rape on the prosecutrix on the false pretext of marrying her. It was alleged that after the first occasion of sexual intercourse, the appellant promised to marry the prosecutrix to which she consented. Thereafter, as admitted by the prosecutrix, they remained in a love affair for 1 and half years where they cohabitated regularly. The prosecutrix had intercourse with the appellant on various occasions of her own free will. 15 days prior the complaint, they also tried to fly away but were caught by the mother of the prosecutrix. It was proved that the prosecutrix became pregnant and gave birth to appellant’s child. It was alleged that the appellant finally refused to marry her. Thus, the complaint was filed and the appellant was convicted as aforementioned.

The High Court perused the record and found that after the mother of the prosecutrix came to know about the affair on the night when the appellant and prosecutrix attempted to flee, she talked to appellant’s father. His father, however, refused to give consent to their marriage. The Court observed that the trial court ignored the fact that the prosecutrix continued to have sexual intercourse with the appellant of her own free will. It was never proved that the appellant, on the first occasion, did not intend to marry her. It was only the father of appellant who refused to accept her as the daughter-in-law. Consent of the prosecutrix for voluntary sexual intercourse, in this case, was obtained neither by fraud nor on a misconception of facts. Holding thus, the High Court set aside the order of the trial court and acquitted the appellant. The appeal was, thus, allowed. [Kalam Sk. v. State of W.B.,2018 SCC OnLine Cal 6548, decided on 20-09-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Arindam lodh, J. disposed of an appeal wherein the offence under Section 376 IPC was converted to Section 354 IPC.

The Appeal was filed by the appellant against the order of District Court whereby he was alleged for the offence of rape of a minor.

From the evidence presented by the respondent, it was clear that the appellant did not touch her vagina or any parts surrounding the vagina.

It was argued by the appellant that in order to attract the provision of Section 376 IPC, even the slightest penetration of the penis into the vagina, mouth, urethra or anus of a woman was enough to constitute the offence under Section 376 of IPC. Taking the deposition of the mother of the respondent into consideration it was clear that, the time gap between the cry for help of the respondent and her mother reaching the place on hearing the same was insufficient to commit the alleged offence. Also during examination-in-chief under Section 161 CrPC, the wearing apparels of the respondent were not ceased neither she was forwarded to record her judicial confession under Section 164(5) CrPC which further weakens her case along with the inference that her clothes were not torn out.

In light of the facts and the evidences stated, the Court established that this incident could be best described as “fondling” and the offence best categorized under Section 354 of IPC as already observed, the slightest penetration, whichever degree it was, an essential requirement vis-à-vis sine qua non to attract the provision of Section 376 of IPC. Hence due to absence of any degree of penetration, the appeal was disposed of. [Nemai Dey v. State of Tripura, CRL A (J) NO. 23 of 2015, dated 06-09-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising Mir Alfaz Ali, J., allowed an appeal as it was unable to persuade itself to sustain the conviction and sentence of the appellant.

The petition was filed by the appellant who was charged under Section 376 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 for rape of the respondent.

The respondent’s claim that she was tied and raped in the same room where the other family members were also sleeping appeared to be absurd and unbelievable. Also, there were discrepancies in the oral testimony of the respondent’s family which further failed to secure their claim.

What was evident from the two medical documents submitted was that they were contradictory, as the first issued at the time of discharge of the victim did not disclose any injury on the private part whereas the subsequent report explained the reason of injuries to be a self-inflicted one with no marks of violence in addition to the fact that the clothing of the respondent was intact at the time of medical examination.

The Court highlighted that when the offence alleged to have been committed by the appellant was serious and grave one, providing for severe punishment, prosecution must provide greater assurance to the court by the strictest degree of proof that the case has been proved beyond all reasonable doubt.

Hence the conviction and sentence of the appellant were set aside.[Ganesh Das v. State of Assam, 2018 SCC OnLine Gau 949, order dated 16-08-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench comprising of J.K.Maheshwari and Akhil Kumar Srivastava, JJ., addressed the issue of rape and murder of a minor girl to see if capital punishment of death penalty could be imposed upon the accused.

Accused in this case was alleged under Sections 376A, 302, 342, 201/511of IPC. He raped a minor girl aged 12-year old after which the girl died. The court had no doubt as to the commission of rape by the accused as many people witnessed the accused running away from the hut where the girl was found dead. The post-mortem report confirmed rape but the reason for her death was stated to be asphyxia. Trial Court observed that the case was proved beyond reasonable doubt. While sentencing accused, Trial Court took aid under Section 42 of POCSO Act as the victim was a minor girl. Stating instant case as rarest of rare case capital punishment of death was awarded.

The appeal went before High Court where the question of whether it was a “rarest of the rare case” was to be decided. Court referred various judgments of Apex Court to understand “rarest of the rare case” and on perusing the aggravating and mitigating circumstances court was of the view that the instant case would not come under “rarest of the rare case”. Therefore, Court set aside the capital punishment given for the offence under Section 376A of the I.P.C. [Sunil Adiwasi v. State of M.P., Criminal Appeal No.5015 of 2018, dated 17-08-2018]