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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Mumbai: Children sleeping on pavement vulnerable to sexual exploitation, says court

Observation made while sentencing man to 5 years in jail for sexually abusing eight-year-old girl

Written by Sadaf Modak | Mumbai |
Updated: August 26, 2021 7:28:18 pm
Special Judge Bharti Kale relied on CCTV footage to convict the man on charges of kidnapping and sexual harassment under relevant sections of the IPC and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. (File Photo)

Children sleeping on pavements are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and require protection, a special court said while sentencing a man to five years in jail for sexually abusing an eight-year-old girl.

The observation was made in connection with an incident that occurred in the intervening night of June 29 and 30, 2018. Around 1.45 am, the victim, who was sleeping next to her parents on a pavement in Grant Road, was picked up and molested by the man. When she began crying, the accused fled.

Special Judge Bharti Kale relied on CCTV footage to convict the man on charges of kidnapping and sexual harassment under relevant sections of the IPC and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.

“One shudders to think what the accused could have done with the victim if she was not able to return safely. From such incidents, the court finds that children, both boys and girls, sleeping on pavement are so vulnerable to sexual exploitation. The accused in this case had easily taken away the victim as she slept in the open on the pavement, unprotected. No doubt there are CCTV cameras but the same helped in punishment and not in protection. Unless such a vulnerable lot of children are protected, they will keep on suffering,” the court said.

The accused through his lawyer had claimed that the victim had woken up to go to the toilet and after she was unable to wake up her parents, he volunteered to take her to the public toilet. He had claimed that there was no sexual assault and that he was known to the victim as he worked at a stall nearby. During the trial, the victim and her mother were declared hostile witnesses.

Special Public Prosecutor Geeta Sharma had submitted that the victim and her mother were unreliable and “rustic” witnesses as they were not able to depose properly. The court said the medical report didn’t help as evidence. The report stated that old injuries to the victim’s private parts showed that she had been sexually abused earlier too, but it went unreported, the court said. But there was other evidence that conclusively established that the accused had not taken the victim to the toilet but sexually harassed her, it added.

It said the CCTV footage had showed that the accused had lifted the victim and carried her away. “The CCTV footage does not reflect when the accused had picked up the victim, she was awake and asked for help…The CCTV footage falsifies the contention of the accused…,” the court said.

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