The Allahabad High Court has granted bail to an accused charged under sections 354C, 376 and 506 of the IPC for acts of voyeurism, rape and criminal intimidation, respectively, and sections 66E and 67A of the Information Technology Act of 2000 for violation of privacy and transmitting and publishing sexually explicit content.
Further, violating the judicial mandate against identity disclosure of the victim in sexual offence cases, the present order mentions the name of the prosecutrix 10 times. In 2003, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court in Bhupinder Sharma vs State of Himachal Pradesh [(2003) 8 SCC 551] had observed: “We do not propose to mention name of the victim. Section 228A of IPC makes disclosure of identity of victim of certain offences punishable. Printing or publishing name of any matter which may make known the identity of any person against whom an offence under sections 376, 376A, 376B, 376C or 376D is alleged or found to have been committed can be punished. True it is, the restriction, does not relate to printing or publication of judgment by High Court or Supreme Court. But keeping in view the social object of preventing social victimization or ostracism of the victim of a sexual offence for which Section 228A has been enacted, it would be appropriate that in the judgments, be it of this Court, High Court or lower Court, the name of the victim should not be indicated. We have chosen to describe her as `victim' in the judgment”.
On July 8, an FIR was lodged against the accused by the cousin of the prosecutrix for allegedly sending private photographs of the prosecutrix, clicked without her knowledge and consent, to her family members and for abusing and threatening the victim and her family. In her statement under sections 161 and 164 of the CrPC, the prosecutrix alleged that the accused had in the year 2014 procured credentials of her gmail account and her IP address without her knowledge and, thereupon, obtained unlawful access to her mobile phone by hacking. In February 2016, the accused started blackmailing the prosecutrix and threatening to send her private photos and videos to her family. In March 2017, the accused called her at the residence of his friend, committed rape on her and prepared a video from a secret camera, threatening to post the video on the internet if she complained to any person. On July 12, when the prosecutrix went to district Ballia, Uttar Pradesh, the accused posted her private photos and videos on YouTube.
The court took note of the conversations on WhatsApp and Facebook between the prosecutrix and the accused, who were colleagues in the same engineering college, showing that there is a close relation between them and that the prosecutrix had with her own consent sent the private photographs to the accused. The high court also observed that the accused was arrested on July 9 and his laptop and mobile phone were confiscated by the police and therefore, there is no possibility that he posted private pictures and videos on social media on July 12. Further, merely by having access to her gmail account and IP address, it is not possible to hack her mobile phone. Finally, the court observed that in her statement under section 164 CrPC, the prosecutrix stated that the accused had raped her in March, 2017, and also prepared a video by a secret camera, but no photographs of such sexual intercourse were produced before the court.
Perusing the material on record, and without expressing any opinion on the merits of the case, the Allahabad High Court granted bail to the accused subject to the conditions that he shall cooperate bonafide in the trial without seeking adjournments, not indulge in any criminal activity or commission of any crime after being released on bail and that he shall not tamper with the prosecution evidence by intimidating the witnesses, during the investigation or trial.