The Delhi High Court on Wednesday upheld the conviction of a man for sodomizing a 6-year-old boy and sentenced him to rigorous imprisonment of 15 years under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act
A bench of Justice SP Garg Justice and C Hari Shankar observed that the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act is gender-neutral and it does not discriminate or distinguish between a boy and a girl, as victims of sexual offences.
The trial court, in this case, had held Jabbar guilty of committing ‘aggravated penetrative sexual assault’ on a 6-year-old boy and convicted him under Section 6 of the POCSO Act. On his appeal, the high court went through the evidence on record in detail and confirmed the trial court findings on his conviction.
The court also observed that provisions of the POCSO Act are to be interpreted in a child-centric manner, the avowed intention and purpose of the statute being the prevention of sexual offences against a child. The bench observed: “As noticed in Alakh Alok Srivsatava (by Supreme Court), the POCSO Act is gender-neutral. It does not, therefore, discriminate or distinguish between a boy and a girl, as victims of sexual offences. The jurisprudence that has developed, with respect to the testimonies of girl-victims, as witnesses would, therefore, apply, so far as the POCSO Act is concerned, mutatis mutandis to boy-victim.”
The court also said the victim boy is a competent and credible witness and his statement could legitimately constitute the sole basis for his conviction. As regards sentence, the high court reduced the punishment awarded to 15 years’ rigorous imprisonment.
The Court observed that the minimum punishment imposable for aggravated penetrative sexual assault, under Section 6 of the POCSO Act, i.e. 10 years‘ rigorous imprisonment, would be insufficient in the present case, directing incarceration of the appellant, for life, would certainly be disproportionate to the offence committed by him.
"The right to breathe free, in the open air, is a constitutional guarantee, preambularly promised to every Indian denizen, and, for the citizenry of the country, stands sanctified by Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Permanent extinction of the said right, for life, must, therefore, necessarily visit only the most hardened of offenders, in the most extreme cases. The ―quality of mercy‖, unstrained, must always temper the hard scales of the law, if a just balance is to be achieved"
"Balancing all factors, to which allusion has already been made herein above, we are of the considered opinion that, in the present case, a period of 15 years‘ rigorous incarceration (with the benefit of Section 428 of the Cr. P.C remaining available to the appellant) would suffice".