Considering the accused had been behind bars for over 1.5 years and the trial is likely to take a long time to conclude, the Bombay High Court has granted bail to a man accused of eloping with a minor girl, and leaving her when she got pregnant and eloping with another girl.
Justice MS Karnik, on September 25, while releasing the accused on bail, also directed the special court under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act in Pune to record the statement of the victim at the earliest.
The HC was hearing a bail plea filed by the accused who was arrested by the Kolhapur police February 13, 2022.
Promise of marriage
According to the police, on March 20, 2021, the 17-years-and eight-months-old victim eloped with the accused on the promise of marriage, which they performed. The couple also lived together till December 2021. However, the accused eloped with another girl after the minor victim became pregnant.
Advocates Kanishka H and Shubham Mhatre, appearing for the accused, submitted that the victim voluntarily resided with the accused for so long and she was not forced into the relationship. They also argued that the romantic relationship, which culminated into marriage, should not be criminalised.
Consent “immaterial”, says prosecutor
However, prosecutor Veera Shinde opposed the bail plea on the grounds that the victim was a minor at the time of the incident and therefore, her consent was “immaterial”.
The defence claimed that the victim, even after attaining a majority in 2021, resided with the accused till December 2021.
However, the prosecutor said that this would not be the accused’s favour since the accusations also pertain to the period when the victim was a minor.
The court, however, granted him bail on furnishing a personal bond of Rs 25,000 and observed: “The trial is likely to take a long time to conclude. Further custody will only mean a pre-trial punishment given the facts and circumstances of the case.”
“The accused will face the consequences post-trial if found guilty. The investigation is complete and the charge-sheet has been filed. In the facts and circumstances of the present case, the accused can be released on bail by imposing certain stringent conditions,” it added.