Court refuses to recall 15-year-old victim in sexual assault case

A special court under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act recently refused to entertain the plea of an accused in a sexual assault case to quash the deposition of a 15-year-old victim and recall her for recording her evidence again, as his advocate could not remain present during her deposition.

The court said that the child was untraceable for two years and was brought from Gujarat by the investigating officer and that it was bound to record her evidence in the situation. In such cases, it said that it is expected from an advocate to cooperate with the court as well as the child witness to proceed with the case.

Special judge under the POCSO Act Rekha N. Pandhare said further that the witness can be recalled under a provision of the CrPC if in the interest of justice, it is necessary to call the witness for the just decision of the case. Also, as mandated by the POCSO Act, the child witness is not to be called repeatedly to testify in court.

The order stated that it was necessary on part of the advocate to move an application for adjournment...but the neglect on part of the advocate to remain present in court despite notice to him shows he was reluctant to come before court to proceed with the cross-examination of the victim.

“Merely on the ground that he was busy in another court he cannot shirk off his responsibility to proceed with evidence in a case where a tender age girl has been brought all the way from Gujarat.” Judge Pandhare said.

Further it said that the case is time bound by a High Court order and the court had been directed to conclude the trial in six months.

The 64-year-old accused lodged in Taloja prison had made the plea stating that the matter was fixed for 28 December and on 21 December, when the court was on leave, the investigating officer, without giving notice to the other side, had cunningly brought the child before an incharge court and scheduled the recording of her evidence for the next day. His advocate was informed by the prosecutor on the day of evidence that the witness will be present, but he was busy in another court in Dindoshi. The evidence of the victim was recorded in his presence through video-conference, in which he had himself cross-examined the child. He said that the proceedings were not audible.

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