Bombay HC seeks stronger laws as man freed in daughter’s rape case
Expressing concern over the mother-son and father-daughter relationship not remaining sacrosanct anymore, the Bombay high court (HC) has appealed to the Centre and state government to incorporate amendments under the relevant laws to give statements recorded before a magistrate under section 164 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) the status of ‘examination-in-chief (vital evidence). The appeal came after HC had to set aside a special Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) court’s verdict, convicting a man for raping his minor daughter, as the survivor’s statement under section 164 of CrPC was insufficient and the guilt of the accused was not substantiated.
The court, however, confirmed the conviction of the father under the Information Technology (IT) Act for having nude photographs of his daughter on his mobile phone.
A division bench of justice Prasanna Varale and justice SM Modak, while hearing the appeal of the 39-year-old man, was informed that he was convicted in July 2015 for rape and criminal intimidation under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), section 4 (penetrative sexual assault) of the Pocso Act and section 67-B (publishing or transmitting of material depicting children in sexually explicit act in electronic form) of the IT Act.
The man’s advocate, Aniket Vagal, submitted that though the minor had resiled during the trial, the special court had based its conviction on her statement recorded under section 164 of CrPC, and hence the conviction was arbitrary and should be set aside.
The man worked as a watchman of a bungalow and used to live apart from his family. He had taken his daughter, then 14, to the bungalow in 2013, and raped her repeatedly for over a period of one year. She was threatened and not allowed to meet her mother, and was kept at her grandmother’s house. In 2014, after the girl informed her sister of her ordeal, their mother lodged a complaint.
The girl’s recorded her statement with the magistrate and the police arrested the man and collected evidence from the bungalow. The police also recovered mobile handsets containing the nude photos and videos of the girl. However, during the trial, she resiled, and the court based its conviction on the statement recorded by the magistrate.
After hearing the submissions, HC observed, “Due to globalisation, boundaries of nations have disappeared. During olden days, certain relations were considered sacrosanct. That is to say that the relationship between brother and sister, mother and son and father and daughter were considered sacrosanct. However, due to passage of time, these relationships have no more remained sacrosanct and there are various instances of overstepping the sacrosanct relationship by the near relationship.”
With regards to the minor not supporting the trial, the court said, “Such incidents always take place in secrecy… Unfortunately, the victim had chosen not to speak about the incident before the court.”
While setting aside the conviction for rape, the court directed the registry to send a copy of the judgment to the central and state law ministries to take an initiative in incorporating amendments under relevant laws to give status to statement under section 164 CrPC as that of examination-in- chief in all eventualities to avoid similar situation in future. The court however upheld the conviction of the father under the IT Act.