Observing that it is very rare for a daughter to decide to prosecute her own mother, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has upheld the conviction of a woman and another accused in the case of sexual assault and harassment filed by her daughter in 2014.
The woman and her brother-in-law (the woman’s sister’s husband) were convicted by a Sessions Court in Chandigarh in February 2017. While the victim’s mother was convicted under the Section 354-A (sexual harassment) read with 120B IPC and sentenced to three-year imprisonment , the man was convicted under Section 354A as well as Section 8 and 12 of the POCSO Act and sentenced to imprisonment for four years. The High Court in its ruling has set aside his conviction under Section 354A due to the overlapping nature of the offence with the provisions of POCSO Act.
The victim, a teenage college student, in her complaint to the police in 2014, wrote that she has been driven to depression by her mother and the latter’s brother-in-law. She also alleged that since 2011, he sexually harassed her on more than one occasion and her mother ignored it all the time and instead rebuked her. In 2014, as per the victim’s complaint, he handed over a DVD to her stating that “it carries a porn video of my mother” and threatened her that it will be made public in case she does not make physical relations with him. After the DVD threat, she was saved by her brother and father – who lived separately since 2009 due to a matrimonial dispute, as per the complaint.
Before the High Court, the counsel representing the main accused submitted that he could not be prosecuted under the POCSO Act, 2012, as the alleged incidents took place before the law came into effect or after the victim had attained adulthood. The allegations are vague, he added further, while also alleging that he has been falsely implicated in the case because they opposed her relationship with a boy, and also at the behest of her father. The victim’s mother also submitted that she has been used as a pawn by her father on account of their marital discord.
Justice Anil Kshetarpal, in the verdict, said that the evidence makes it apparent that the accused had not only made sexual advances in 2011 but also such attempts were repeated on 2-3 occasions in 2012 and once in 2013. The Court also noted that the victim withstood the volley of questions put to her in the cross-examination during the trial.
While rejecting the argument that there were improvements in the statement made by the victim, the Court said that they are only explanations or elaborations of the allegations contained in the FIR and further said that FIR is not expected to be an encyclopedia of the entire case.
“It may be noted here that slight change in the facts or alleged improvements are bound to happen, being natural. One cannot be expected to have eidetic/photographic memory. Natural variation do happen and such depositions are considered and relied upon by the courts after its careful analysis,” the court said.
Observing that the victim is a resident of a modern city like Chandigarh and was free to marry on attaining the age of majority, the Court rejected the argument that the accused were falsely implicated as they opposed her relationship with a boy. While rejecting the argument that the allegations were made on instigation of her father, the Court said, the victim never made any complaint to her father during the period of five years since 2009 and called him only in 2014 when she found herself in a desperate situation.
“From the facts available on record, it is apparent that there was hesitation on the part of the prosecutrix to take re-course to legal action even after she was beaten on October 4, 2014, mercilessly by her mother. Thereafter, she took over a month in resolving what must have been her inner conflict before deciding to approach the police. It is to be noted that on October 4, 2014, her father had called the police but she gave a statement to the police that she does not want to take any legal action. That itself shows that the prosecutrix was reluctant to take re-course to legal action against the accused,” the court said, adding that she was a sensitive young child and also concerned about the prestige of her family.
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