The Punjab and Haryana High Court has upheld the conviction of former supervisor of Bal Niketan, Manish Arora, who had been accused of molesting inmates back in 2014.
In doing so, Justice Anita Chaudhry ruled that the testimonies of two child witnesses in the case cannot be discarded just because other inmates did not come forward against the accused.
“The plea that except PW1 and PW2 no other inmate had complained against the appellant, carries no weight. It is not the quantity which matters. The two girls come forward and spoke against the appellant and described his mis-deeds. Their testimonies cannot be thrown on ground only because the other inmates had not come forward or made any complaint,” the judge observed.
The court further opined that Arora does not deserve any leniency in punishment, but went on to reduce his sentence by one year, considering the fact that he is the sole breadwinner of the family.
A 14-year-old girl at the children’s home for girls had in 2014 complained of sexual abuse by Arora on a child helpline. Two child witnesses – aged 10 and 14 in 2014 – had alleged that Arora used to to hug them inappropriately, touch their private parts and watch them change clothes.
Following this, a committee of the social welfare department, on the basis of an enquiry, had recommended action against him and two wardens for not acting on the complaints on time. An FIR was registered against Arora in April, 2014, and he was found guilty in January, 2015. He was convicted under Sections 10 and 12 of Protection of Children from Sexual Offence Act, 2012 and Section 354C (voyeurism) of the Indian Penal Code.
Challenging his conviction, Arora had now contended that the trial court had erred in holding him guilty on the basis of unreliable and unconvincing evidence. Elaborating on his submission, he claimed that the 14-year-old girl had maliciously implicated him after he stopped her from meeting her “boyfriend”. As regards the 10-year-old girl, he had submitted that she had been influenced by the elder one to depose against him.
The court, however, did not agree with such contentions, opining that the statements of the two witnesses were unimpeachable.
“The statement of this witness is un-impeached. The fear and trauma which she and others had undergone in the Home is apparent from her deposition. Despite lengthy cross-examination, nothing adverse has come against the prosecution witness. The testimony was unshattered (sic)…
…By not giving specific date or time of assault, the statement of child witness cannot be ignored, especially when she narrated the incidents vividly. A child of tender age is always receptive to abnormal events which take place in their lives and it never fades from their memories. She had given vivid description of the incidents that had taken place with her in the Children Home,” the court observed, upholding Arora’s conviction.
The counsel for the appellant then submitted that the sentence imposed on him is excessive, considering the fact that he has been behind bars since the date of his arrest, is a first time offender, is over fifty years old, and is the sole bread earner of the family.
Accepting such submissions, the court reduced his sentence by a year, observing, “The offence committed by the appellant is of such a nature that he does not deserve any leniency in the matter of sentence, but considering the fact that he has two grown up daughters and the sole bread earner and has suffered incarceration for the last several years, the sentence imposed upon the appellant under Section 10 of POCSO Act only is reduced to six years.”