Settlement via marriage not a ground to quash proceedings against rape accused under POCSO
Rahul P R and Anr Vs State of Kerala
CRL.MC NO. 5890 OF 2020
About/from the judgment:
In a significant ruling, the High Court has held that a compromise of marriage between the parties is not a ground to quash the criminal proceedings against the accused under the provisions of POCSO.
The Court, while dismissing a petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, remarked:
"Rape is not only a very serious and inhumane offence committed towards the victim alone, but also it causes a very serious impact upon her relatives and society as a whole. When the magnitude of the crime is so grave and heinous as such to shock the sense of justice, a settlement between the parties and a marriage subsequently between them are not matters for consideration to quash the proceedings in a criminal case."
The observation came in a matter where the petitioners/accused had procured a minor girl aged 17 years from her lawful custody and forcibly took her to the rental house of the 2nd accused. The girl was raped by the 1st accused here.
The accused were accordingly booked for the offences punishable under Sections 366A, 376 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 4 read with Section 3, Section 6 read with Section 5 and Section 17 read with Section 16 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2002.
Thereafter, the petitioners filed an application under Section 482 to quash the FIR, the final report and its further proceedings pending before the 1st Additional District and Sessions Court.
They argued that the matter had been settled between the parties since the 1st petitioner had married the victim under the Special Marriage Act on 08.12.2020 and that now they were living together as husband and wife.
It was further argued that the victim did not intend to proceed with the case against the petitioners and an affidavit sworn to by her in this regard was produced before the Court.
Public Prosecutor represented the State in the matter.
The question posed for consideration before the Court was whether an FIR and the consequent proceedings registered for an offence of raping a minor girl could be quashed in view of the compromise arrived at between the parties exercising power under Section 482 of Cr.P.C.
The Bench noted that the Apex Court had in a catena of decisions laid down that the inherent power given to the High Court under Section 482 Cr.P.C. is to prevent abuse of process of the court and for the advancement of justice.
The Court also recalled that the powers under Section 482 were an exception and not the rule, to be used sparingly with great caution and circumspection.
Condosering that in the instant case, the main offence alleged was rape on a minor girl, the Court observed that it was 'incontrovertible that the charges levelled against the petitioners are of serious nature.'
After elaborately considering the scope and ambit of Section 482 by relying on several decisions such as Gian Singh v. State of Punjab ((2012) 10 SCC 303), the Court ruled:
"Rape is a very serious offence and it is doubtless that it is not an offence of private in nature but is also an offence towards society. It is worse than murder as humiliating and horrifying experiences are caused to the victim and so it is considered the most heinous, brutal and cruel crime against a woman. When it is towards a child the gravity is all the more severe and excruciating as it may even low self-esteem, self-confidence and dignity of the child and that the psychic effect and impact would cause a devastating effect on the minor and result in far-reaching consequences."
Noting that the petitioners had no case that the case was maliciously instituted or that they were falsely implicated with an ulterior motive, it was held that a compromise and settlement entered between the parties are not accepted to hold that the allegations do not make out a case against the petitioners.
The Court added:
"...the provisions of the special Act enacted to protect and save minor children from sexual offences and harassment are also involved, the argument that now the victim has attained the age of majority and is living happily with 1st petitioner are not valid grounds or justifiable reasons or decisive factors for consideration to quash the criminal proceedings as sought for. "
Dismissing the petition, the Court directed the petitioners to stand the test of judicial scrutiny and face trial before the trial court.
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