Begin typing your search above and press return to search.
News Updates

POCSO | Child Witness' Testimony Must Be Evaluated More Carefully, Sufficient For Conviction If It Inspires Confidence & Is Reliable: Delhi HC

Prateek Chakraverty
4 Feb 2022 1:37 PM GMT
POCSO | Child Witness Testimony Must Be Evaluated More Carefully, Sufficient For Conviction If It Inspires Confidence & Is Reliable: Delhi HC
x

The Delhi High Court has held that a trustworthy testimony of a child witness is sufficient to record a conviction under the POCSO Act. At the same time, the Court struck a note of caution that the testimony has to be evaluated more carefully..The observation was made by Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri while hearing an appeal against conviction under Section 12 of the POCSO Act, which...

The Delhi High Court has held that a trustworthy testimony of a child witness is sufficient to record a conviction under the POCSO Act. At the same time, the Court struck a note of caution that the testimony has to be evaluated more carefully..

The observation was made by Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri while hearing an appeal against conviction under Section 12 of the POCSO Act, which pertains to sexual harassment upon a child.

After perusing the facts and circumstances of the case, the Court finally set aside the conviction of the accused, citing unreliable testimonies of the prosecution witnesses. The Bench observed:

"It is apparent that there are contradictions in the testimonies of prosecution witnesses on various aspects, including as to how and when the child victim had informed her mother about the acts of the appellant, as well as regarding apprehension of the appellant. Further, even though the statement of the child victim's friend was recorded during investigation, the prosecution neither examined the said friend nor examined the brother and sisters of the child victim in whose presence the appellant had allegedly behaved improperly. It is also the admitted case of the prosecution that the appellant had not committed any wrong act or involved himself in an improper behaviour on the day of Bhandara."

Allegations of Indecent Behavior

The daughter, assessed at 10 years of age, of a rickshaw puller and a house-cook alleged in the Police Complaint that the accused subjected her to daily indecent behavior of exposing his genitals and wading currency bills at her. One day, the victim saw the accused in a Bhandara/langar on the street outside her home. She informed her mother about the persistent sexual abuse and her parents apprehended the accused at the street. An FIR was lodged against the accused on this day.

The Investigation adduced new details whereby the child revealed that the accused used to abuse her friend and was committing a "wrong act" on the day of the Police Complaint at the Bhandara. A charge sheet under Sections 354/509 IPC and Section 12 of the POCSO Act was filed.

Vide Judgement of the Additional Sessions Judge, the Appellant was convicted under the POCSO Act, sentencing him to 3 years Simple Imprisonment and fine. It was against this judgment that the Appellant came before this Court.

Testimony of Child Witness

The Court reiterated the well-established principle concerning the reliability of a child witness' testimony. Sufficiency of recording conviction is reached if the child victim's testimony inspires confidence and is reliable. In the words of Justice Ohri,

"Insofar as the sufficiency of the statement of child victim in convicting an accused is concerned, it has been repeatedly held that if the testimony of the child victim inspires confidence and is reliable, it is sufficient to record the conviction."

The Court cited various Supreme Court decisions viz., Dattu Ramrao Sakhare and Others v. State of Maharashtra (1977), State of Rajasthan v. Om Prakash (2002), and State of Himachal Pradesh v. Sanjay Kumar alias Sunny (2017). The cases bear out that corroboration of a child witness' testimony, as a general rule, ought not to be done as the same would amount to "insult to injury." This was to further the permissibility of the conviction on the sole testimony of a child witness. The reason is that it would be undesirable to treat her evidence with suspicion as she is the victim of another's lust (Om Prakash). At the same time, the courts indicated that in case of compelling reasons, corroboration of the testimony may be necessitated (Om Prakash; Sanjay Kumar alias Sunny).

This latter aspect was further delved as a note of caution to relying on the child testimony in the Supreme Court cases such as Ranjeet Kumar Ram @ Ranjeet Kumar Das v. State of Bihar. The held position is that evaluation of the testimony must inspire reliability.

Reliability of the Child Witness

Testing the reliability of the Child Witness' testimony, the Court closely evaluated the examination of the witnesses by the prosecution, the prosecution's case, the Statements procured from the Child Witness during Investigations, and the Police Complaint. Several inconsistencies emerged as to how and when the child victim had informed her mother about the appellant's acts. Contradictions were noted between the child witness' testimony and other witnesses on the events leading to the Complaint. Further, even though the statement of the child victim's friend was recorded during the investigation, the prosecution neither examined her nor the brother and sisters of the child victim in whose presence the appellant had allegedly misbehaved.

As a result, the Court found that Child Witness' testimony was fraught with doubt. Justice Ohri allowed the Appeal, acquitting the Appellant of all charges. The Court held as follows:

"Keeping in view the foregoing, this Court is of the opinion that the discrepancies in the testimonies of the witnesses and the deficiencies noted above cast a shadow of doubt on the prosecution case and the appellant's involvement is not proved beyond reasonable doubt. Accordingly, the present appeal is allowed. The impugned judgment on conviction and the order on sentence are set aside and the appellant is acquitted of the charges framed against him."

Case Title: Ravinder v. State

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 85

Case No.: CRL.A. 552/2020

Date of Decision: 5.1.2022

Coram: Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri

Click Here To Read/Download Judgment


Next Story