A Special Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) court in Mumbai recommended the appointment of female security guards outside public toilets for the safety of women and children who are forced to use such facilities.
Special Judge HC Shende observed thus while convicting and sentencing a sweeper to five years in jail for molesting a 7-year-old inside a public toilet. He was convicted for offences under sections 354 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code and under section 9(m) read with section 10 of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
"There is a need to have lady watchman in a toilet or kids should [be] accompanied by their near ones just to avoid getting harassed by any assailant [at such a] tender age as it would leave a deep scar on their lives…It is very traumatic and also causing mental harassment to the kids and such incidents are increasing rapidly so the parents must take care of it while sending their kids to the public toilet to avoid further harm," the order read.
The judge observed that Mumbai being a metro city has the "biggest slums" with small houses and less space to walk through it. "These houses are not bigger than the size of match box as we usually observe and hence, the people here use public toilet made by the government," the bench observed adding that "these toilets are less in number and not close to everyone's house so when small kids go to use these toilets, some trustworthy person shall accompany them."
It was the prosecution's case that on September 5, 2016, at about 1pm, the child visited the public toilet and came home crying after mere 15 minutes. When her aunt asked her what had transpired the child revealed that the accused had held her and kissed her on her lips while she was exiting the bathroom. When her aunt asked her the reason, the child said that when she came out of the toilet, the sweeper lifted her and kissed her on her lips. She asked him to leave her to which he threatened her. The aunt then went looking for the man, and after the neighbours found him, they beat him up, and subsequently handed him over to the police.
The prosecution examined six witnesses - the child, her aunt, a neighbour, local resident and cops — to seek conviction of the accused.
The court rejected the accused's claims of mistaken identity. "No theory of enmity in between the family of the informant and the accused was brought on record by the defence. No case of false implication was put up by the defence. No evidence in defence to rebut the presumption available to the victim u/s.29 of POCSO Act put up by the defence."
The bench relied heavily on the testimony of the victim child.
"Cumulative reading of the aforesaid would prove beyond shadow of doubt that it was the accused who had committed sexual assault on the minor victim aged 7 years at the relevant time. He outraged the modesty of the victim girl and when she screamed, he gave threats to throw her out of the window. It reflects the intention of the accused to cause harm to the victim."
Case Title - State of Maharashtra vs Sunil Balwilsingh