0

POCSO case: Lacking strong evidence, The Supreme Court overturned the convictions and acquitted the offenders.

CASE TITLE- Nirmal Premkumar & Anr. Vs State Rep. By Inspector of Police

CASE NUMBER- Criminal Appeal No. 1098 of 2024

DATED ON- 11.03.2024

QUORUM- Hon’ble Justice Dipankar Datta, Hon’ble Justice K.V. Viswanathan and Hon’ble Justice Sandeep Mehta

FACTS OF THE CASE

The victim is a minor girl aged 13 years, was an eighth-grade student of a Higher Secondary School. The first incident occurred, A-1(Accused considered as ‘A’), being Tamil teacher entered the classroom, approached the victim, and forcefully presented her with roses, jasmine flowers, and chocolate in the presence of fellow students. Despite the victim’s refusal to accept the offerings, A-1 resorted to twist her arms and coerced her into accepting the same. The second incident took place, when the victim was called by A-2, being Social Studies teacher, through a girl student, A-2 enquired from the victim why was she refusing to talk to A-1 and that if she continues to not talk to him, A-1 would die and she would be held responsible. The third incident took place, when another teacher informed the victim that she had been called by A-1. A-1 inquired why the victim was not talking to him. In response, she expressed fear citing potential trouble with her family if they were to discover the situation. A-1 asserted that the victim’s family members would be powerless to address the situation even if they became aware of it. The victim’s parents learnt of her distress resulting from the three incidents. A First Information Report was lodged against three teachers for offences under sections 11(i) and 12 of the POCSO Act. The Special Court convicted A-1 and A-2 and sentenced them. Upon challenge, The High held that the findings recorded by the Special Court did not warrant any interference and that the appeal was devoid of any merit, hence, it was dismissed.

ISSUES RAISED

  • Whether the evidence on record is sufficient to record conviction against A-1 and A-2?
  • Should the answer to the above be in the affirmative, what should be the appropriate punishment to be imposed on A-1 and A-2?

LEGAL PROVISIONS

  • Section 11(i) of POCSO Act, 2012
  • Section 12 of POCSO Act, 2012
  • Section 506 of Indian Penal Code, 1860

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT

Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the appellants contented that, the prosecution has not proved its case beyond reasonable doubt and the Court ought to have acquitted the appellants. Several contradictions arise on a bare reading of the oral evidence were brushed aside because the Special Court and the High Court were too obsessed with the thought that a teacher had indulged in sexual harassment of a girl child. Moreover, it was contented that the prosecution could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, as none of the witnesses other than the victim testified to witnessing A-1 giving flowers and chocolate to her. The evidence of the victim was thoroughly unreliable and should not have been given any credence. Further, the contradictions in the testimony of the victim cast serious doubt as to whether the actions of A-1 and A-2, as framed by the prosecution, could be said to carry ‘sexual intent’. Learned counsel, highlighting the flaws and contradictions in the impugned decisions, urged this Court to accept the appeal and acquit A-1 and A-2.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENT

Learned senior counsel appearing for the State submitted that the High Court took pains to reassess the evidence in arriving at its concurrence with the Special Court’s judgment and order.  It was emphasised that teachers occupy a position of immense trust and responsibility in the life of a student also guardians with whom parents entrust the care of their child. Thus, the desecration of an educational institution by such acts of sexual harassment not only grimly underlines the moral depravity of the accused, but also violates the sanctity of the pursuit of education, which has larger ramifications for society as a whole, inasmuch as such incidents can act as a deterrent in the education of young girls. No case having been set up by A-1 and A-2 for interference, the counsel urged this Court to dismiss the appeal.

COURT’S ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

 

The court analyzed that when considering the evidence of a victim subjected to a sexual offence, If the Court deems such evidence credible and free from doubt, there is hardly any insistence on corroboration of that version. The court held the prosecution’s case stands with lacklustre efforts, which revealed a poorly executed endeavour that given rise to substantial doubts regarding the integrity of the case. The contradictions present in the depositions of prosecution witnesses, including the victim, undermined the credibility of the prosecution version. The foundation of the case crumbles under the weight of doubt. The victim’ statements appeared to the court muddled and prevaricated, much less coherent. The inconsistencies and contradictions compelled the court to reject the case set up by the prosecution before the Special Court with which the High Court concurred adopting a flawed approach. The court held the case unsuitable for securing a conviction under section 11 read with section 12 of the POCSO Act, for enough missing links present in the case to extend the benefit of doubt to A-1. As regards A-2, the court did not consider that the prosecution was successful in proving that the conduct of A-2 was a case of criminal intimidation punishable under section 506 of I.P.C. Therefore, his conviction too was also set aside. The appeal was allowed and the appellants were acquitted.

“PRIME LEGAL is a full-service law firm that has won a National Award and has more than 20 years of experience in an array of sectors and practice areas. Prime legal fall into a category of best law firm, best lawyer, best family lawyer, best divorce lawyer, best divorce law firm, best criminal lawyer, best criminal law firm, best consumer lawyer, best civil lawyer.”

Judgement Reviewed By- Shreyasi Ghatak

click to view the judgement

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *