The Gauhati High Court recently observed that Section 29 & 30 of the POCSO Act doesn't actually relieve the prosecution of its burden to prove a case, however, these provisions only lessen the prosecution's burden by shifting the onus of proof to the accused.
The Bench of Justice Suman Shyam and Justice Parthivjyoti Saikia observed this while upholding the conviction of a man who raped his own daughter.
Facts in brief
The appellant (father of a minor girl) started assaulting his daughter when she was in Class-VI and on several occasions, she complained to her mother, but the mother did not believe her. Finally, on one occasion, the mother herself saw some incident of sexual assault upon her daughter.
Again, when she got to know that her husband had committed forcible penetrating sex upon her, on the third day of attaining puberty, she called the village people and other relatives to her house.
Thereafter, an FIR was lodged against him alleging the aforesaid facts.
Finally, on completion of the police investigation, a charge sheet was filed against the appellant. The trial court framed the charges under Section 376(2)(i)/307 IPC and under Section 6 of the POCSO Act.
Lastly, on appreciation of evidence, the Sessions Judge passed the impugned judgment and order and convicted him under Section 6 of the POCSO Act, and sentenced him to rigorous imprisonment for 14 years and to pay a fine of Rs. 25,000/- only with default stipulation.
At the outset, the Court noted that the POCSO Act empowers the Special Judge to have a presumption about the guilty of an accused and that the doctrine of reverse burden is applicable in such cases (as was the case in the instant matter).
Thereafter, the Court perused Section 29 (Presumption as to certain offence) and 30 (Presumption of culpable mental state) of the POCSO Act, which has been reproduced below:
In this regard, the Court opined as follows:
"Section 29 and 30 of the POCSO Act does not actually relief the prosecution of its burden to prove a case. These provisions of law, however, lesson the burden of the prosecution by shifting the onus of proof to the accused. Once the foundation for holding the presumption is established, after that the duty is cast upon the accused to prove his innocence.
Therefore, the Court noted that in the instant case, the evidence of the prosecutrix was corroborated by her mother and the evidence of the prosecutrix was also corroborated by the medical evidence and hence, as per Section 29 & 30 POCSO, the presumption about the guilty of accused/father was applicable in the case.
In the case in hand, the Court also observed, the appellant (father) did not prove his innocence by adducing evidence, therefore, the court opined that he failed to discharge his statutory burden, and thus, the trial court rightly held that the charge brought against the appellant had been proved beyond all reasonable doubt.
Consequently, the Court held that the trial court had correctly appreciated the prosecution evidence in the light of the aforesaid statutory provision and therefore, the impugned judgment does not require any interference. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal as being devoid of merit.
Case title - Purna Nahar Deka v. State of Assam