Mumbai: Observing that a 12-year-old child would not the know the provisions of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the Bombay High Court acquitted a telephone booth owner from a 21-year-old outraging modesty case. The HC while acquitting the accused also said the conduct of the victim was ‘unnatural’ as she did not say anything to her own mother but to her grandmother and a social activist.

A single-judge bench of Justice Kalpathi Rajendran Shriram dismissed an appeal by Pune police challenging the acquittal of Mohammed Akbar (changed name).

Akbar was booked by the police in 1999 after the victim, who was 12-year-old then, lodged an FIR accusing him of outraging her modesty. She claimed she had been to the telephone booth run by the accused on that fateful night and when she was about to leave from the booth, the accused inappropriately touched various parts of her body.

In her FIR, the victim, who was studying in class VI then, also invoked the provisions of the SC/ST Act, which penalises a man for outraging the modesty of a woman, who belongs to the reserved category.

Having considered the material on record, Justice Shriram refused to rely on the victim’s statements alone as he found she does not stand in an ‘exalted’ position of an absolutely reliable witness. “I asked myself how would a 12-year-old child know the provisions of SC and ST Act. Why would a child, whose modesty allegedly has been dishonoured or outraged, make out a case under SC and ST Act,” Justice Shriram said.

The court noted neither the prosecution nor the victim claimed in the FIR the accu­s­ed even took the name of her caste at the time of the incident. “Why would a child of such age, in the FIR mention about her own caste. In a case of this kind, the FIR, I would have expected to be alleging offences pertaining to the outraging of modesty. The fact the SC and ST provisions have been inserted shows that the victim was tutored,” Justice Shriram held.

The bench further noted the victim did not disclose anything pertaining to the incident to her own mother, with whom she lived.

“The mother also is not a witness. A girl of 12 years while confessing would have immediately narrated the incident to her mother but nothing of that sort has come on record. Thus, including that the victim has been tutored to add allegations under SC and ST Act, her conduct shows her sole testimony is not entirely reliable,” Justice Shriram ruled, upholding the acquittal orders.

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