A 23-year-old man was sentenced to three years in prison by a Mumbai Special Court for pulling the dupatta and gripping the hand of a juvenile girl with sexual intent.
The court stated that sexual offences against children are on the rise and have a negative influence on the victim, her family, and society, leading them to assume that the house and surrounding area are unsafe for children. “Undoubtedly, such an incident instills fear in the minds of individuals, the victim and her family members, and leaves a scar for a long time,” the court noted.
Special Judge Priya Bankar found the man guilty under Sections 354 (assault or criminal force on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC as well as Section 8 (Punishment for sexual assault) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act). The court fined the man and granted the victim girl Rs. 15,000 in compensation under Section 357(1) of the Cr.P.C.
The prosecution said that the man grabbed the victim’s dupatta and held her hand as she left the house to buy some household items. At the time, the victim was 15 years old and in the tenth grade. When the victim yelled that she would report her father about the incident, the accused allegedly threatened to beat her father up. The victim’s father reported the incident to the Mahim police station. The victim also testified throughout the trial that the accused used to stand in front of her house and follow her to school. When her family members found out, they pursued the accused but did not file a police report.
The court noted that Section 30 of the POCSO Act provides for the accused’s culpable mental state to be presumed. The accused must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not in such a state. The accused has the right to present his defence. The accused’s defence was that he and the victim were having an affair. Because the victim was a child at the time of the incident, the court rejected this defence. The court also stated that the girl and her father deny the claims.
The defence further claimed that the victim’s testimony is contradictory because she stated in her statement before the magistrate that her scarf was pulled. The court rejected this since there isn’t much of a distinction between a dupatta and a scarf. According to the court, this contradiction is insufficient to cast doubt on the entire episode. “The accused was present on the scene, and he committed an offence with the minor victim girl with sexual purpose and made physical contact with the victim girl, so committing a sexual assault offence,” the court decided. According to the evidence, the accused threatened to beat the victim’s father after entering his home. This is criminal intimidation, and the prosecution has proven the offence under Section 506 of the Penal Code.
“The prosecution has brought on record sufficient evidence to prove that the accused has committed an offence punishable under section 354 and 506 of Indian Penal Code and under section 7 punishable under section 8 of the POCSO Act”, the court concluded.
CASE: State of Maharashtra v. Mohammad Zaid Gulamnabi Shaikh