A 53-year-old narrowly escaped a conviction under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and a consequent jail term of at least five years recently, when a special court could not hold him guilty under the POCSO Act for want of an original birth certificate to prove the age of the child as 10 years at the time of the incident.
The court sentenced the man, a native of Punjab, who resided at the Mahim railway station bridge under Sec 354 of the IPC (assault or criminal force on women with intent to outrage modesty) instead, in which the minimum punishment is one year, which can extend upto five years. He was given a jail term of 2.5 years.
The man was facing trial under Sec 10 of the POCSO Act for aggravated sexual assault which carries a minimum punishment of five years and can extend upto seven years.
Special POCSO judge Rekha N. Pandhare said in her judgment that the prosecution has failed to prove the age of the victim by specifically proving the birth certificate. It noted that though the birth certificate is produced on record, it is a copy and not an original. The court said that hence, technically the accused cannot be convicted under Sec 10 of the POCSO Act. It said in its judgment that there remains no doubt that he had committed the act with the victim and that there is material against him.
On 10 October 2018, the child was on the way to school at 6.30 am with her 13-year-old friend and her uncle. Her uncle was arranging for change to pay for a taxi by which the trio had come to the Mahim Railway station. The incident took place when the two girls went up to the Mahim railway bridge to wait for her uncle till he paid the taxi. The man had pressed the younger child’s buttock and pinched it while passing by the two children. During the trial, the victim as well as her friend had identified the man as the one who had committed the act.