THE BOMBAY High Court has quashed a complaint filed against a senior state government employee in 2017 for allegedly advising his cousin to elope with a minor girl and assisting in solemnising their wedding.
Satara district police had booked the official and his cousin for kidnap and rape under the IPC and for sexual assault under the POCSO Act. The FIR states the petitioner’s cousin kidnapped the girl, who was then 17 years and 11 months old, from the lawful guardianship of her parents on July 17, 2017, with the promise of marrying her.
When police was successful in tracing her in August 2017, they found out that the petitioner advised the couple to elope and also assisted in solemnising their wedding at a temple in Kolhapur city.
In his petiton, the government employee stated that the girl was 18 years old when she eloped with his cousin and was in a consensual relationship with him.
In their order, Justices N J Inamdar and Ranjit More relied on an interview of the girl by a division bench of the High Court in February 2018. The girl had told the bench that her date of birth was June 8, 1999, as mentioned in her identity documents. She said she was unaware of how her date of birth was mentioned as August 8, 1999, in the birth register maintained by the municipal council of the town she was born in.
The victim further informed that she had married in July 2017 and she would like to reside with her husband (accused no 1) and feared for her life if she continued to reside with her parents “as she was facing a lot of pressure”.
Justices Inamdar and More observed that the birth register could not be relied upon to conclusively establish whether the girl was a minor at the time. The bench noted as the girl had told the investigating officer and the court that she was in a consensual relationship with the accused, the petitioner could not be prosecuted simply on the allegation of advising them to elope and in helping to solemnise their wedding, advocate Madhukar Dalvi, counsel for the petitioner, said.