Calcutta HC Directs State to Pay Rs 5 Lakhs Compensation To Minor Victim of Sexual Assault [Read Judgment]
The Calcutta High Court upheld the conviction and sentence of a man under section 6 of POCSO Act for sexually assaulting a three year old girl, denying the presence of minor contradictions in the statement of victim's mother to vitiate the case of the prosecution. In addition to this, the court directed the state to pay the victim a compensation in tune of Rs 5 lakhs to ensure her proper education and rehabilitation.
In the present case, the minor girl was playing in the verandah in front of her room. The appellant, called her into his room on the pretext of giving tea. Thereafter, mother of the victim,heard screams coming from the room of the appellant. She rushed to the spot and banged at the door which was closed from inside. After much effort appellant opened the door. He was naked. Victim was also found undressed. She enquired from her daughter about the incident and the latter informed her that the appellant removed her wearing apparels and inserted his finger into her vagina.
The counsel for the appellant argued that there were contradictions in the statement of the mother and the statements of independent witnesses were not taken. Moreover, the victim also could not coherently narrate the incident in court and the medical report is inconclusive about the act of sexual penetration. The appellant also claimed that due to the inconclusive nature of the alleged act of sexual penetration, the case should not fall within the ambit of 'aggravated sexual assault' as defined under section 5 of POCSO.
The single bench of Justice Joymala Bagchi denied the claims of the appellant by relying on the statements of the victim and other witnessess which were also corroborated by the medical report. The court opined that a girl of such a tender age cannot be expected to testify like an adult and her courage to come out and even speak about the incident is brave considering judicial proceeding might be causing her secondary victimization. The court noted that when the statements of the victim and her mother got corroborated by medical evidence, the absence of independent witnesses and minor contradictions shall not discredit the version of the prosecution.
On the issue of 'aggravated sexual assault, the court categorically declared that complete penetration is not sine qua non for the offence of rape or penetrative sexual assault. Penetration of any form is sufficient to attract the ingredients of such offences.
Justice Bagchi, therefore, confirmed the order of conviction under section 6 of POCSO Act and section 342 of the IPC, and sentenced the appellant to rigorous imprisonment for ten years and a fine of Rs.10,000/-. The court also directed the State to pay compensation to the tune of Rs.5.00 lakhs to the minor victim to ensure her proper education and rehabilitation. While making such direction, the court the significance of creating awareness about the recently notified 'Victim Assistance Scheme/Survivors of Sexual Assault/other Crimes, 2019' and asked the District Legal Service Authority to ensure that the said scheme is displayed in a prominent manner in its office as well as in the court premises for public awareness and effective implementation.
Recognising the development in criminal jurisprudence, the court highlighted that the same has shifted from a bipolar to a multipolar dimension involving the victim as a prime participant in the said system encompassing restitutive justice. The statutory recognition of such evolution is found in the incorporation of the definition 'victim' in the Code as well as incorporation of Section 357 A therein which enjoins upon the State to provide compensation to the victims of grave crimes.