THE Bombay High Court last week directed a sexual assault offender to compensate for the upbringing of the child born out of the assault. The division bench of the high court, comprising Justices Sadhana S. Jadhav and Prithwiraj K. Chavan, held that the welfare of the child born out of the illicit relationship between the minor girl and the offender is of paramount importance.
In the instant case, the victim’s pregnancy was detected when she was eight months pregnant. She passed away two days after the birth of the child, due to childbirth-related complications. Her autopsy revealed that she was aged 16-17 years at the time of death. Her mother lodged a first information report after her death.
The accused in the case, Ramesh Tukaram Vavekar, was a disc jockey who impregnated the minor and was convicted under under Section 4 (punishment for penetrative sexual assault) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences [POCSO] Act, by a special court in Mumbai. He was sentenced to imprisonment for life and directed to pay Rs. 2,000 in default of payment.
In the present appeal, the accused had contended that the girl was aged 19 when she died and therefore, the charges under the POCSO Act do not apply on the appellant. However, the Bombay High Court relied on the school leaving certificate of the victim to determine her age, and found no substance in the pleadings of the accused.
The court not only blamed the appellant for aggravated penetrative sexual assault, but also accused him of abandoning his own child. It also said that the victim has put the life of two individuals in jeopardy. Keeping public policy in view, the court said that the law cannot be allowed to neglect a child whose father has refused to take care of him. The bench was of the view that the Special Court should have made the accused liable for compensation in this case under Section 33(8) of the POCSO Act, read with sub-sections (2) and (3) of section 357A of the Criminal Procedure Court. The high court directed the accused to pay two lakh rupees as compensation within four months of the pronouncement of the judgment.
Furthermore, the high court reduced his imprisonment to ten years. The court gave the following rationale for the same:
“Looking to the young age of the appellant and his future prospects in his profession as a Disk Jocky [sic] as well as the fact of his willingness to provide adequate compensation to the child, we are of the considered view that, no fruitful purpose would be served in detaining the appellant for his entire life, instead, if the amount of compensation to be awarded to the child, is adequate, it would serve the ends of justice.”
While appointing the Secretary of the District Legal Services Authority as the guardian of the child, the court also directed the Secretary to open a joint account in their and the child’s name in a nationalized bank for the welfare of the child. The Authority was also made liable to pay additional compensation to the boy in accordance with Rule 7 of the POCSO Rules, which shall be payable by the State government from a relevant scheme, fund or victims compensation fund. The baby boy will have the liberty to access the money on turning 18 years old.
Click here to read the Bombay High Court’s judgment.