The Bombay High Court last week granted bail to a 25-year-old man, booked for kidnapping and raping a 14-year-old girl, stating her conduct was “indicative” of the fact that she had left her parents’ home of her own will and had “sufficient knowledge and capacity” to know what she was doing.
“No doubt, that the applicant, under the preview of POCSO Act, is a minor, however, the facts of the present case indicate that she had sufficient knowledge and capacity to know full import of what she was doing and had only thereafter voluntarily joined the complainant,” the High Court said while calling the facts of the case “peculiar”. According to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and Juvenile Justice Act, consent given by a minor below the age of 18, is not considered valid under law.
“The conduct of the victim is indicative of the fact that she had left the home of her parents by her own will and that she had surrendered to the physical desires of the applicant out of her love and affection for him,” Justice Sandeep Shinde said in his order, while granting bail to the accused on a bond of Rs 25,000. The court also barred the man from living in the same vicinity as the victim until the trial concludes.
According to the prosecution, on April 18, 2019, the victim’s parents approached the police after she did not return home and a case of kidnapping under Section 363 of the Indian Penal Code was filed. Subsequently, the investigating officer received information that the victim would be coming to Santacruz airport and accordingly found her with the accused. The accused was arrested after the victim informed the police that he had sexually abused her. Relevant sections of the POCSO Act and rape under IPC were also added.
The accused, through his lawyer Nazneen Khatri, submitted before the court that the victim had herself left her parents’ home with her belongings and they had then travelled together to Mahabaleshwar, Bhusawal and Delhi. She also went to the accused’s hometown in Uttar Pradesh, where she was persuaded by a relative of the accused to return, after which they came back to the city.
“The said description of the facts do not even remotely suggest that the applicant (accused) had ever induced and/or forced the victim to leave her parents’ house,” the High Court said. It added that it was also not a case where the accused had promised to marry the victim and under that ‘misconception’ maintained physical relations with her. It also said the accused was in custody since April 2018 and the trial was not likely to commence in the near future. The trial court had in July last year rejected the bail application of the accused, stating he was aware the victim was a minor and despite being well-educated with sound knowledge of the law, he had “enticed” the minor.
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