20 July 2021 3:24 AM GMT
The Madras High Court last week upheld the conviction of a pastor under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act for the sexual assault of a 12 year old student of CSI Hobert Girls Higher Secondary School. The accused pastor was residing in a house provided by the CSI Church situated within the confines of the school campus. Justice P Velmurugan also issued a host...
The Madras High Court last week upheld the conviction of a pastor under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act for the sexual assault of a 12 year old student of CSI Hobert Girls Higher Secondary School. The accused pastor was residing in a house provided by the CSI Church situated within the confines of the school campus.
Justice P Velmurugan also issued a host of recommendations in order to ensure that schools remain a safe space for students and to prevent the repetition of such unfortunate incidents. The Court noted that often students are afraid to report incidents of sexual harassment against teachers or management of schools under the fear of their future academic prospects being adversely affected. In order to ally such fears, the Court directed the schools to keep a complaint box which would be regulated by the Secretary of the District Legal Services Authority.
"It is directed to keep a Complaint Box at every School to make the victims to complain about the sexual assault freely and keys of the same should be under the control of the Secretary District Legal Services Authority. The Secretary, District Legal Services Authorities are directed to inspect the complaint box along with the District Social Welfare Officer once in a week and enquire into the same, if prima facie reveals any sexual offence, forward the same to the Station House Officers concerned to proceed further", the Court opined.
Further, the Court also recommended the Tamil Nadu government to establish a committee at every school with the objective of conducting monthly inspections and to encourage students to report any untoward incident of sexual assault. The committee would consist of the Social Welfare Officer, the Secretary of District Legal Services Authorities, female Police Official not below the rank of District Superintendent of Police, District Educational Officer, female Psychiatrist and a Physician from the Government Hospital. The District Educational Officer has been tasked with the responsibility of conducting such monthly inspections.
The accused had been convicted under Section 9(f) and Section 10 of the POCSO Act by the Sessions Court and sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of five years. A fine amounting to Rs.25,000/ was also levied upon the accused to compensate the victim girl. Against the order of the Sessions Court, the instant appeal had been filed.
The Court was apprised that the victim girl had allegedly been invited to the house of the pastor under the pretext of narrating a story on Jesus whereby sexual assault was committed upon her. Immediately afterwards she narrated her trauma to her friend and thereafter her parents and grandmother. Consequently, a police complaint was registered.
On perusal of the record the Court concluded that the prosecution had proven its case beyond reasonable doubt. Rejecting the contention of the accused that there were defects in the investigation conducted by the prosecution, the Court observed,
"It is made clear that mere lapse on the part of prosecution should not lead unmerited acquittal, subject to rider that in such a situation evidence on record should be clinching, so that lapses of prosecution can be condoned. In this case, evidence of victim is cogent and consistent. Even though there is no eye witness, however, P.W.7 & P.W.8 corroborated the same to the extend that victim was present on that day and she informed the alleged offence to them and they informed to the Head Mistress of the School"
The accused had contended that he was not present at his residence at the time of the alleged incident which was corroborated by his wife and son during trial. He had also submitted that he was being falsely framed in this case due to existing enmity stemming from Church elections. Disregarding both contentions, the Court held that the accused had failed to prove his defence of alibi and the alleged enmity by examining independent witnesses.
Furthermore, the Court also observed that contrary to the submission of the accused, medical examination of the victim is not necessitated in the instant case since this was not a case of penetrative sexual assault.
Accordingly, the Court concluded that the accused had failed to rebut the presumption of guilt of the accused as enumerated under Section 29 and Section 30 of the POCSO Act.
Accordingly, the Court disposed of the appeal by opining,
"There is no merit in the appeal and there is no sound reason to interfere with the judgment of conviction and sentence. Accordingly, this criminal appeal is dismissed."
Case Title: S.Jayaseelan v. State
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