A bench comprising of Justice ZA Haq and Justice Amit Borkar was constituted for the hearing of the case where a complaint had been registered against a teacher, Mr. Gopal Janbandu, for sexually assaulting three minors.
The Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court reversed the acquittal of a school teacher on the charge. The complaint mentions that the minors were three girls. The court sentenced the man to rigorous imprisonment of 20 years, without parole or furlough leave in the first decade of his jail time.
Sexual Assault by a School Teacher
Mr. Jalbandu was arrested and prosecuted on the basis of the complaint. According to the prosecution, on December 2, 2017, one of the three survivors informed her mother about the intermittent sexual assaults being committed by the teacher on her and two other students from her class, during school recess. The woman then spoke to the parents of the two other girls and a complaint was then lodged at the police station.
The prosecution examined 12 witnesses, including the three survivors, but on January 5, 2019, an Additional Sessions Judge of Gondia acquitted the teacher of all the charges levelled against him – Rape under Section 376 of Indian Penal Code and Penetrative and Aggravated Sexual Assault under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.
The survivors then explained their ordeals in detail while testifying before the POSCO Court. But the special court didn’t believe them and acquitted the teacher, saying that the cumulative effect of their testimonies was that the teacher sexually assaulted them simultaneously, which according to the trial court, was highly improbable.
Case moved to Bombay High Court
The case was then moved to the Bombay High Court by the State Government, appealing against the acquittal. Acting on the appeal, the high court disapproved the judgment which was passed by the Trial Court and in its conclusion, said that the court decision taken by the court was based on misreading testimonies of the survivors.
“This approach of the learned trial judge in disbelieving victim girl of 10 years, in our opinion, is a gross case of perversity. The reason for brushing aside the testimony of the victim, who had gone through the trauma of aggravated sexual assault shows complete insensitivity on the part of the learned trial judge,” said the bench.
HC, on the contrary, found that the evidence of the survivors inspired confidence and was even corroborated by the evidence of some other witnesses in the case, and reversed the teacher’s acquittal. The court convicted him for rape and aggravated penetrative sexual assault and sentenced him to 20 years imprisonment.
A fine of Rs. 1.80 lakhs was imposed by the High Court on the accused, Mr. Gopal Janbandu, and further directed the respondent to pay the fine amount and asked the authorities to collect the fine amount as Land Revenue from him in case he fails to pay the amount.
The High Court disapproved the Trial Court’s view that the presumption of guilt under Section 29 of the POCSO Act comes into play only when the prosecution proves its case beyond reasonable doubts.
Bombay High Court also noted that the view was erroneous and the presumption comes into play as the prosecution proved Foundational Facts.
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