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Romantic relationship cannot be lost sight of: Bail granted
Ephina Khonglah Vs State of Meghalaya
BA. No. 14 of 2021
About/from the judgment:
The High Court took into consideration the romantic relationship between a minor victim and a man accused under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) while granting the latter bail in a sexual assault case lodged against him.
The Court held that even though a minor's consent to sexual relations no legal validity, the fact that the accused and the victim had a romantic relationship cannot be lost sight of, for the grant of bail. The order stated,
"On perusal of the records, particularly the statement of the victim and the accused, prima facie it is apparent that there is a romantic relationship between the two and that the sexual act involved between them was one of consensual, notwithstanding the fact that in the case of an alleged victim being a minor, consent has no legal validity, however, this aspect of the matter cannot be lost sight of while a plea for grant of bail is being considered by the court."
The Court passed the order in a bail plea filed on behalf of the accused in relation to a case registered against him under Sections 5 and 6 (penetrative and aggravated penetrative sexual assault) of POCSO Act. The accused and the victim were stated to be in a romantic relationship with each other.
The accused submitted that he his client was incapable of understanding the consequences of his action, and that keeping him incarcerated with other inmates, some of whom may be harden criminals, will have an impact on his future career.
The POCSO Act was enacted to prevent cases of sexual assault on children and does not contemplate punishment of teenagers in a romantic relationship, it was further submitted.
Sawian added that the accused has been in judicial custody for almost 11 months, while the POCSO Act stipulates that cases have to be disposed of in a year.
Additional Advocate General opposing the bail application, submitted that the accused is an adult who is booked with a serious charge. The law does not distinguish whether the act was a result of romantic love or otherwise, he added.
Noting that the investigation was complete and the chargesheet was filed, the Court stated that whether an offence is made under the POSCO Act is a matter of evidence.
Further, it cited the Madras High Court decision in Vijayalakshmi and Anr. v. State represented by the Inspector of Police and Another, in which it was held that the POSCO Act did not intend to penalise teenagers in a relationship who consented to sexual acts between them.
The Court thus allowed the bail plea on a personal bond of ₹20,000 with two sureties of like amount. The accused was ordered to not tamper with the case witnesses or abscond/leave the jurisdiction of the trial court without prior permission.
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