Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has granted bail to a youth accused of raping a minor in 2019, observing that there was controversy over the victim’s age, which ranged from nine years to 16 years.
While granting bail, Justice M S Karnik also noted that the youth had been incarcerated for four years and the trial was not likely to conclude in the near future.
The HC was hearing a petition filed by the youth seeking bail in a case registered against him at Bhosari Police Station in Pune in 2019, under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO).
According to the prosecution, when the victim’s parents were away at work, the youth allegedly raped her. The victim suffered an abortion and the DNA of the fetal tissue matched with that of the applicant, additional public prosecutor Veera Shinde said.
Youth's Advocates Argure That The Relation Was Consensual
Advocates Ganesh Gupta and Deepak Gupta, appearing for the youth, argued that the relation was consensual. The court noted that there was “some controversy about the age of the victim”.
“In the medical history, the victim has stated her age to be 16 years at the relevant time. In the First Information Report (FIR), the age is reflected as 15 years. As in the bona fide certificate issued by the school where the victim was taking education, to which learned counsel for the applicant has some objection, the age of the victim at the relevant time would be 9 years,” Justice M S Karnik said, in a detailed order passed on November 3.
Gupta opposed the argument that the victim was nine years old at the time of incident, as reflected in the school certificate.
The complainant’s advocate, Priyanka Chavan, opposed the bail plea, contending that even if it were to be assumed that it was a consensual relationship, the same would be immaterial, considering the provisions in the POCSO Act. “It may be that the materials reveal that the relationship between the applicant and the victim appear to be consensual in nature. However, having regard to the age of the victim, such consent is immaterial in view of the provisions of POCSO Act,” Justice Karnik added.
Court Grants Bail On Bond Of ₹25,000
The court noted that the youth has been in jail since his arrest on September 11, 2019, as an undertrial, for more than four years. “I am informed that even the charge has not been framed and therefore, the trial is likely to take a long time to conclude. The investigation is complete. The charge sheet has been filed. The applicant does not appear to be a flight risk,” Justice Karnik added.
Also, at the relevant time, the youth was 19 years of age and there was nothing on record to indicate that the applicant had criminal antecedents. The HC has directed that in case of arrest, he should be released on furnishing a personal bond of Rs25,000.