In the case of State of Karnataka vs R.S., the Karnataka High Court on 23rd March 2022 overturned a trial court’s acquittal ruling and sentenced the accused to ten years in jail for sexually assaulting his daughter when she was a minor, stating that “there is no motivation for the victim girl to submit false testimony against her own father.”
Facts leading to the case:
In 2015, the maternal grandmother of a 14-year-old victim girl filed a complaint against the victim’s father, alleging that he had been committing forcible sexual assault on his own minor daughter for about 9 months and had also committed a forcible sexual act against the victim girl on May 19, 2015, by wrongfully confining her in the house.
On the basis of the complaint, an investigating officer registered the crime and the accused was arrested and put in judicial custody. Thereafter, the accused was charged for the offences punishable under Sections 376(1) (Whoever, commits rape, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term not less than 10 years, but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable for fine), 342 (Punishment for wrongful confinement), and 506 (Punishment for criminal intimidation) of IPC and Sections 4 (Punishment for penetrative sexual assault), 8 (Punishment for sexual assault), and 12 (Punishment for sexual harassment) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act [POCSO], 2012.
The matter went to the Trial Court, where the accused was acquitted of the charges alleged against him stating that the evidence produced was unreliable. As a result, the State filed an appeal before the Hon’ble High Court, claiming that the verdict was unjust.
The State’s Counsel contended that the trial Court’s judgment and order of acquittal are contradictory to the law, facts, and evidence on record. Furthermore, the trial court has disregarded significant evidence that is consistent with the claims presented in the prosecution’s complaint without any valid reason, resulting in a miscarriage of justice.
The Counsel for the respondent contended that the evidence produced from the prosecution side is untrustworthy and further contended that the victim is incompetent to give a statement as it was found in the medical examination that the victim was under depression and she was being tutored by her maternal grandmother as she has animosity toward the accused.
Observations of the Court:
- The Court found that during cross-examination, the accused did not deny sexual assault on the victim but simply stated that the charges were based on the maternal grandmother’s testimony.
- Furthermore, it found that the victim’s medical report states that the hymen was not intact and that the victim had been sexually assaulted, which the victim did not deny, but that the victim had not been sexually assaulted recently, as the victim admitted.
- There were no strong circumstances found to show that the complainant (maternal grandmother) had unduly influenced the victim girl against her own father (the accused).
- The Court observed that the trial court had not taken into account the child’s circumstances and the trauma she had experienced while confronting sexual assault and a great deal of mental anguish as a result of the accused’s actions, which she was unable to discuss with her deaf and dumb mother. It was decided that the court could not overlook the trauma suffered by a young child and that it should be very sensitive in circumstances when the victim’s evidence is consistent and reliable.
- It has been found that the trial court was casual in conducting the trial and the cross-examination of witnesses was called after a long span of time which is an anathema to the concept of a proper and fair trial thus resulting in a miscarriage of justice.
The accused is found guilty of the offence punishable under Section 376(1) of IPC r/w Section 6 (Punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault) of the POCSO Act and sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 10 years along with a fine of Rs. 50,000/-.
– Vaishali Jain, Advocate & Associate – POSH at Work & Surbhi Singh