The Karnataka High Court under Justice V. Shrishananda in State of Karnataka and Shaikh Rouf (Criminal Appeal No. 200060/2016) increased the five-year sentence given by the special court to an accused who was found guilty of the crime where The Protection of Children From Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act mandates a minimum sentence of seven years. The court notes that the special judge had no authority to reduce the minimum sentence to five years when the statute calls for a minimum of seven years.
The prosecution had come before the court to appeal the special court’s judgement from July 9, 2015, which had found the accused guilty of sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl. However, on both counts, he was given a five-year sentence for simple imprisonment. The state government in its appeal contended that when the Trial Court had found that the prosecution proved the case by examining all material important witnesses, it was not correct in reducing the quantum of sentence and fine amount against the respondent/accused.
The approach of the trial Court in sentencing the respondent/accused for a period of five years for the offence under Section 4 of the POCSO Act is illegal as minimum sentence that is prescribed under the provisions of Section 4 of the POCSO Act is seven years and there is no discretion vested in the learned Special judge to reduce the minimum sentence of seven years to five years. It was argued that the respondent/accused had destroyed the future of a 12-year-old girl by committing a horrible crime, damaged her reputation in society, and produced social unrest among society as a whole. The Trial Court’s judgement and fine amount are grossly insufficient and in violation of the POCSO Act and the IPC.
It is the argument that the learned Special Judge ought not to have convicted the accused for the offence punishable under Section 376 of 12 IPC, when once accused was convicted for the offence punishable under Section 4 of the POCSO Act. Said argument looses its significance in view of the fact that punishment prescribed under Section 376 of IPC and Section 4 of POCSO Act are one and the same.
It is a settled principle of law and requires no emphasis that when a statute prescribes minimum sentence, the trial judge or the appellate judge has no discretion whatsoever to reduce the minimum sentence prescribed by the statute. Applying the said principle of law enunciated in the aforesaid decision to the case on hand, awarding sentence of five years to the respondent/accused by the learned trial judge ignoring the fact that statute has prescribed the minimum sentence of seven years for the offence punishable under Section 4 of POCSO Act, is thus, clearly illegal and calls for interference by this Court in this appeal. 19. Therefore, in the facts and circumstances of the case, the State has made out a case for enhancing the sentence to seven years which is minimum sentence prescribed by statute under Section 4 of POCSO Act.
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