Telangana HC upholds POCSO conviction, says ‘Consensual Physical acts cannot be asked as a defense if the girl is a minor’: Telangana High Court

Telangana HC upholds POCSO conviction in the case Vanka Rajesh Raju v. The State of Telangana (CRIMINAL APPEAL No.294 of 2020) decided through the learned single bench led by Justice K. Surender. In this case, the court observed that the act of physical relationship even though consensual between the accused and the minor girl cannot be used as a defense by the accused if the girl is below the age of 18 years.

Facts of the case: The mother of the minor girl filed a complaint stating that her daughter who is a minor studying in 9th class was sexually assaulted by their auto driver for a long time. Not just that but the girl was also pregnant by 16 to 18 weeks though later the foetus was aborted. After examining the minor girl, it was found that since August 2016, the accused has raped the girl on regular bases taking her to open places in vacant quarters and he has also been threatening her to remain silent by blackmailing her.

Judgment: The counsel for the appellant had to argue that the age of the victim was not proven and it can’t attract POCOS Act as there is no proof of her being less than 18 years of age and according to them even if she was less than 18 years the appellant’s side was of an opinion that there exist precedent stating that evidence of child witness was always dangerous unless it was available immediately after the occurrence and before the possibility of tutoring.

Putting aside the arguments of the appellant the court answered by stating that the evidence given by the victim i.e. the minor girl cannot be disbelieved only because there was no independent corroboration and all the circumstances shows that the appellant indulged in committing rape. It was seen that the appellant who is an auto driver, dropping and picking up the girl from school, had all means and access to commit such an act. The accused himself stated that the victim was never forced into the abandoned quarters and the victim herself accompanied the accused on her own showing that the driver was involved in such acts. Also, the date of birth of the victim clearly shows that the victim was a minor which was proven by the mother as well as the school principal.

The court held that the appellant cannot defend that victim’s age was above 18 at the stage of appeal as this defense was not taken by the appellant during the course of the trial. Therefore, the court held that the evidence presented by the victim and her mother is reliable their version of facts can be accepted by the court without any corroboration and based on which the guilty can be punished.

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