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Have failed to create atmosphere where primary caregivers of child can identify signs of abuse: Bombay HC

Bombay High Court refuses bail to man accused of sexually harassing, abetting suicide of a 17-year-old girl.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
Updated: September 17, 2021 1:34:01 am
A single-judge Bench of Justice Bharati H Dangre, earlier this month, had refused bail to Gaurav Narkhede who had been arrested for abetting suicide of his 17-year-old niece.

The Bombay High Court, while refusing bail to a man accused of sexually harassing and abetting the suicide of his 17-year-old niece, has recently said that “we, unfortunately, have failed to create an atmosphere in the society where parents, teachers and adults in company of the child can identify signs of abuse and make sure children receive care and protection”.

A single judge bench of Justice Bharati H Dangre, earlier this month, refused bail to a man arrested for abetting suicide of his niece, who jumped from the balcony of a flat in Pune on September 6, 2020. The girl succumbed to injuries on October 17, 2020.

Three months after the incident, the girl’s mother had lodged a complaint with the police alleging that Narkhede had abetted the suicide. She had said that in 2018, the girl had visited the accused, who is the cousin of her husband. As per the complaint, he attempted to touch the girl’s private parts and sent her “dirty messages” over WhatsApp, screenshots of which were saved by the girl, and later recovered by the police.

The man was also booked under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

Senior advocate Aabad Ponda, appearing for the accused, said that even if it’s assumed for a moment that his client had committed “an error” in texting the girl and “crossed limits”, he can be said to have committed a “moral blunder”. “The extreme step taken by the deceased was not the only solution left to her, as there were other ways of sorting out the issue,” Ponda argued.

The HC noted, “The present case is of a young teenage girl, who felt cornered by the conduct and demeanour of her own uncle, which was unexpected since she held him on a high pedestal as her own father and was unable to vent her anguish on account of the close proximity of the family with that of the applicant.”

Justice Dangre, referring to a note received from the girl, added: “She is a girl in formative years and her writing give an impression that she felt trapped… The screenshots from the mobile make it apparent that the applicant was harassing the deceased and in spite of her strong protest, was seeking something from her, leaving her in a despondent state.”

Noting that the girl suffered the consequences of her uncle’s conduct “silently” for a year or so, the HC said, “Sexual violence knows no boundaries. For the deceased, who was not an adult, but a child, her adolescent years were shaped by harrowing experiences that left her with irreversible and irreparable memories. The fear of stigma, not being believed and being blamed, found her in a precarious situation, left her isolated and insecure and which persuaded her to end her life.”

The bench, while denying bail to the applicant, noted that he is a “matured and married man” and “does not deserve his liberty”.

It added that there is every likelihood that if released on bail, he may pressurise prosecution witnesses and tamper with evidence.

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