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POCSO Act - Non-reporting of sexual assault despite knowledge is a serious crime: Supreme Court

POCSO Act - Non-reporting of sexual assault despite knowledge is a serious crime: Supreme Court

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that failing to report sexual assault against a minor despite knowing about it is a "serious crime" and an attempt to shield the perpetrators. While setting aside the Bombay High Court order that quashed criminal proceedings against a medical practitioner accused of not reporting POCSO, a division bench comprised of Justices Ajay Rastogi and CT Ravikumar stated Prompt and proper reporting of offences under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act is critical, and failure to do so would be a violation of the law's very purpose and object. 

“Prompt and proper reporting of the commission of offence under the POCSO Act is of utmost importance and we have no hesitation to state that its failure on coming to know about the commission of any offence there under would defeat the very purpose and object of the Act. We say so taking into account the various provisions there under. Medical examination of the victim as also the accused would give many important clues in a case that falls under the POCSO Act.”

The bench delivered its verdict on an appeal filed by the state of Maharashtra, through the police, against the high court judgement while referring to a previous verdict delivered by the top court, stating that “This Court in Shalu Ojha v. Prashant Ojha observed: “this is an unfortunate case where the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 are rendered simply a pious hope of the Parliament and a teasing illusion for the appellant”. Even while, borrowing those words, we may say, we are not peeved, but certainly pained, as a legitimate prosecution under another Act viz., the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (for short “POCSO Act”), has been throttled at the threshold by the exercise of power under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (for short ‘Cr.P.C.’), without permitting the materials in support to it to see the light of the day in respect of misprision of sexual assault against minor tribal girls in a girls’ hostel. As per the impugned judgment, the High Court of Judicature at Bombay, Nagpur Bench in Criminal Application (APL) No.841 of 2019 dated 20.04.2021 quashed FIR No.185 of 2019 dated 12.04.2019 of Rajura Police Station and the final report filed thereon under Section 173(2), Cr.P.C. qua the Respondent.”

Section 19(1) states that any person (including a child) who has reason to believe that an offence under this Act is about to be committed or has knowledge that such an offence has been committed must report such information to either the Special Juvenile Police Unit or the local police. The court noted that a violation of Section 19 (1) is punishable by imprisonment for a maximum of six months under Section 21. Furthermore, the bench also noted that the High Court relied on statements made under Section 161 CrPC in coming to quash the accused's proceedings. The court said that such statements recorded under Section 161 Cr.P.C. are inadmissible in evidence and, therefore, could not have been made the basis for arriving at such conclusions.

Background

An FIR was registered against an unidentified person(s) on the accusation of commission of sexual offences against minor tribal girls who were students of Infant Jesus English Public High School, Rajura residing in its girls' hostel. During the investigation, the Superintendent of the hostel and four others were arrested and arraigned as accused of the crime. One other accused was a Medical Practitioner appointed for the treatment of girls admitted to the said Girls' hostel and the victim girls were taken to him. He was arraigned as an accused after the investigation revealed that he had knowledge about the incidents that occurred as the victim girls revealed in their statements recorded under Section 161 of Cr.P.C. The accused was under a legal obligation, in terms of the provisions under Section 19(1) of the POCSO Act upon getting the knowledge about committing an offence under the POCSO Act, to provide such information either to the Special Juvenile Police Unit or the local police. Allowing a petition under Section 482 CrPC filed by the said accused, the High Court quashed the proceedings against him observing that there is no evidence to implicate the applicant in the said crime.

Case details

State of Maharashtra vs Dr. Maroti s/o Kashinath Pimpalkar

Criminal Appeal No. 1874 of 2022

Read the complete judgment on the following link:-

https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2022/858/858_2022_7_1501_39287_Judgement_02-Nov-2022.pdf

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