Andhra Pradesh High Court Directs the Special Court to Decide Case relating to POCSO Act within 6 months

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On 7th May 2020, Andhra Pradesh High Court decided the case of Mondi Murali Krishna v. Dumpa Hanisha Naga Lakshmi & Ors.

The Court stated that the victim can complain at any age even if the act committed was when he/she was a minor. The POCSO Act would still apply in such a case.

Brief Facts of the Case

Father of a University student had filed a case. The victim committed suicide allegedly due to sexual harassment by three of her seniors. The victim belonged to Warangal. She had joined the course on September 7, 2014, when she was still a minor.

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The petitioner alleged that the accused persons harassed her. As a result of which she committed suicide on September 7, 2014, when she had become a major.

A case was filed against three seniors accused of sexual harassment. They were charged under the Indian Penal Code, Andhra Pradesh Prohibition of Ragging Act and the POCSO Act.

The Judges of a special POCSO Court stated that police shouldn’t have filed a charge sheet under the POCSO Act. Since the victim was major at the time of her suicide following which her father filed the complaint. Thereby, the judge opined that the POCSO Act wouldn’t apply. He refused to take cognizance of the charge sheet filed by the police.

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The case was then dealt by an Additional Assistant Sessions Judge (Fast Track Court). He rejected the plea raised by the victim’s father for charging all the accused under the POCSO Act. He stood by the judge’s view that the POCSO Act would not apply.

Aggrieved thereby, the victim’s father moved a revision plea before the High Court.

Issue

Will the POCSO Act apply since the victim was a major when her father filed the complaint over her suicide?

Petitioner’s Arguments 

Advocate Nuthalapati Krishna Murthy was appearing for the petitioner. The petitioner stated that the accused persons were committing the act from the time when she was a first-year student. At that time she was still a minor. These acts continued until she turned major. These acts didn’t stop until she had no option but to end her life in July 2015.

Respondent’s Arguments 

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Advocate M Radha represented the accused persons. They stated that the victim didn’t report during her lifetime about the harassment. They took the defence of absence of any such report lodged by the victim or any other person on her behalf. Respondents further stated that there is no basis for taking charge of the case under the POCSO Act.

Court’s Observation

The Court emphasized on the object of the POCSO Act. Its object is to operate in the interest and for the well-being of every child.

The court observed that decision of the lower court in this aspect has defeated the object of the Act. It also stated that the Judges were in error in deciding the case. They shouldn’t have returned the charge sheet without examining it.

“The learned Judge (of the POCSO court) completely lost sight of the fact that the … acts of sexual assault and sexual harassment which are the offences under Sections 7 and 11 of the (POCSO) Act were committed when she was a child below the age of eighteen years commencing from 07-9-2014 when she entered the University, even till the date when she became major on 22-4-2015 and also till her death.”

– Andhra Pradesh High Court.

The Court added,

“… it shows the total non-application of mind of the learned Judge of Special Court to the provisions of the POCSO Act and also to the facts of the case which made him to arrive at an erroneous conclusion in returning the charge sheet without taking it on to the file of the said Special Court which amounts to causing gross miscarriage of justice in this case. It also amounts to defeating the very object of the enactment (POCSO Act).”

Held

This judgment was passed by a single judge bench of J. Cheekati Manavendranath Roy.

The Court held that the accused committed all the alleged acts when the victim was a minor. It prima facie constituted the offence of sexual assault under Section 7 of the POCSO Act.

The Court also held the Principal of the College liable under Section 16 of POCSO Act. Section 16 of the said act describes Abetment of an offence. The principal failed to take any action when the father of the victim had complained and so was liable.

Thus, the Court allowed the criminal revision case. It has set aside the order passed by Special POCSO Court. The Court has directed the Special Court to take cognisance of the charge sheet. It directed the Special Court to decide the case according to the law within 6 months.


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