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POCSO Act Not Intended For Teenagers' Romantic Affair: Allahabad HC Grants Bail To Man Who Married 14-Yr-Old Victim

Sparsh Upadhyay
17 Feb 2022 9:42 AM GMT
POCSO Act Not Intended For Teenagers Romantic Affair: Allahabad HC Grants Bail To Man Who Married 14-Yr-Old Victim
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The Allahabad High Court recently granted bail to a POCSO Accused who ran away with a 14-year-old girl (victim) due to a romantic affair between them. The Court noted that both of them fled away, got married in a Temple, and remained in company with each other for almost two years during which the girl even gave birth to a baby.The Bench of Justice Rahul Chaturvedi also remarked...

The Allahabad High Court recently granted bail to a POCSO Accused who ran away with a 14-year-old girl (victim) due to a romantic affair between them. The Court noted that both of them fled away, got married in a Temple, and remained in company with each other for almost two years during which the girl even gave birth to a baby.

The Bench of Justice Rahul Chaturvedi also remarked that it would be extremely harsh and inhuman to devoid the baby from parental love and affection on account of the fact that both the accused and minor victim loved each other and decided to get married.

The Court, in a significant clarification also said that the scheme of the POCSO Act clearly shows that it did not intend to bring within its scope or limits, the cases of the nature where the adolescents or teenagers are involved in a dense romantic affair.

The case in brief

In November 2019, the father of the minor girl lodged an FIR against the Accused/bail applicant (Atul Mishra) with the specific allegation that his minor daughter was enticed away by him. He was later on booked u/s 363, 366, 376 I.P.C.; ¾ of POCSO Act, 2012 and 3(2)v, 3(2)va of the SC/ST Act.

Eventually, after almost one year, after getting a tip from the informer, police arrested the victim and her small baby in her lap along with the applicant from east of the by-pass. Since on the date of the incident the victim was a minor, all the authorities at the subordinate level, sent her to Shelter Hom in Prayagraj and the applicant was sent to jail.

The Additional Sessions Judge/ Special Judge (POCSO Act), Fatehpur rejected the bail application moved on behalf of the applicant, in November 2021, and hence, he moved the instant bail application before the Court.

Court's observations

At the outset, the Court observed that on the date of the incident, the victim was a minor girl and her 'consent' as contemplated u/s 375/376 I.P.C. has got no value in the eyes of law, however, the Court further noted that the applicability of any statutory penal provision is not a mathematical exposition or theorem and thus, it can't be applied like that.

Continuing further, the Court stressed that there are certainly gray areas, where the severity of the sentences provided under the POCSO Act, rightly so be diluted keeping in view the facts of each case. In this regard, the Court observed thus:

"If these rigors of the enactment is pasted hastily or irresponsibly, it could lead to irreparable damage to the reputation and future of young whose actions would have been only innocuous and may lead to spoiling the future life of that innocent lovers or couple who out of sheer innocence have initially developed and thereafter established that relationship...Growing incidences where teenagers and young adults fall victim of the offences under the POCSO Act, being slapped by the penal provisions of POCSO Act without understanding the far-reaching implication of the severity of the enactment, is an issue that brings much concern to the conscience of this Court"

Importantly, the Court, in its order, also remarked that the decision of such couples could be impulsive, immature but certainly not sinful or tainted as branded in the F.I.R. or complaint of the informant.

"It is crucial to accept the science and psychology of an adolescent and young adulthood at this juncture. This is because social and biological phenomenons are widely recognised as determinates of human development, health and socio-economic attainment across the life course, but our understanding of the underlying pathways and processes remains limited. Therefore, a 'bio-social approach' needs to be adopted and appreciated i.e. one that conceptualizes the biological and social requirements of two teenagers, who on account of mutual infatuation are attracted and decide for their future."

Court's order

Reverting to the facts of the case, the Court noted that in the instant case, the teens had decided to enter into a nuptial knot and now they have a baby out of this relationship, therefore, the Court held that the rigors of the POCSO Act would not come in their way.

The Court also took into account the fact that the girl was not sexually abused or no sexual assault was made upon her, nor she had been sexually harassed by the applicant, as contemplated by the object of the POCSO Act.

Therefore, stressing that it is extremely harsh and inhuman to devoid their baby from parental love and affection, the Court granted him bail while noting that his wife (victim girl) had shown her willingness to reside with him.

However, to secure the future of the girl and baby, the Court did put out a condition that after the release on bail, the applicant shall produce a bank draft of Rs. 5 lacs in favor of his wife and her baby, which shall be handed over to the victim before the court within a period of six months from the date of his release on bail.

Lastly, the In-Charge of Rajkiya Balgrih (Balika) Khuldabad, Prayagraj was directed to release the victim with her baby forthwith.

Case title - Atul Mishra v. State Of U.P. And 3 Others
Case citation: 2022 LiveLaw (AB) 51

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