New Delhi: The Supreme Court last week pulled up the Madhya Pradesh government for not filing an appeal in a POCSO case, in which the high court had discharged the accused.
The bench, comprising Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice J.B. Pardiwala, said it was a “disturbing feature” of this case that it was the father who had to approach the Supreme Court and not the state government.
The court was hearing an appeal filed by the father of a girl who died by suicide in April 2020 after giving birth to a child. The father of the child, Amit Tiwari, was charged with rape and POCSO later that year by a special court but discharged by the Madhya Pradesh High Court in December 2021.
The high court cited the “delay” in the filing of the case, noting that the complaint and FIR were filed after the girl died by suicide, and not during her lifetime or when she was pregnant. The high court had also taken note of the confusion around the girl’s age.
While her parents claimed that she developed physical relations with the accused when she was 17 years and a few months old, Tiwari disputed the fact and said they were in a consensual relationship and were both major at the time of the incident.
Describing the high court order as “illegal”, the Supreme Court said, “It was expected of the state to challenge the illegal order passed by the high court.
“Barring a few exceptions, in criminal matters, the party who is treated as the aggrieved party is the state, which is the custodian of social interests of the community at large and so it is for the state to take all steps necessary for bringing the person, who has acted against the interests of the community, to book.”
The judgment was passed on 12 August.
According to the judgment, the victim experienced “severe pain” in her stomach in April 2020. When her father took her to the hospital, she delivered a baby. The same day, she told her father that she had developed a physical relationship with Tiwari.
A day later, she hanged herself with a dupatta in hospital. An FIR was then registered under Sections 376 (rape) and 306 (abetment of suicide) of the IPC, along with provisions of the POCSO Act.
Narrating the facts of the case, the court said the story was “quite heart-breaking”, but added that “at the same time, more disturbing is the utterly incomprehensible impugned judgement of the high court discharging the accused of the offence of rape”.
The court set aside the high court judgment, calling it “perverse and not sustainable in law”. But it refrained from saying anything further on the age of the victim, adding that it was for the trial court to decide. The trial court will now proceed with the trial against the accused on the basis of the charges framed against him.
In its judgment, the Supreme Court asserted that an order quashing a charge framed against the accused should be passed “only in exceptional cases and on rare occasions”.
It then noted that the high court discharged the accused on the grounds that the “entire case put up by the parents of the deceased was doubtful”.
The Supreme Court did not agree with this.
It observed, “At the cost of repetition, we state that the impugned order of the high court is utterly incomprehensible. We have yet to come across a case where the high court has thought fit to discharge an accused charged with the offence of rape on the ground of delay in the registration of the FIR.”
The apex court bench also found it “disturbing” that the trial court had not found it fit to frame charges against the accused under Section 306 of the IPC. However, since nobody had questioned that part of the order, the court did not say anything else on this point.
(Edited by Siddarth Muralidharan)