The Meghalaya High Court has granted bail to a teenager who had sexual relationship with a young girl.
In an order passed yesterday, the High Court bench of Justice Wanlura Diengdoh granted conditional bail to the accused who was jailed since December last year under the POCSO Act.
It may be noted that in the FIR dated December 18, 2020 lodged by the mother of the minor before the Officer-In-Charge, Pynursla Police Station, it was alleged that the teenager picked up the minor on December 16, 2020 at midnight and took her to Nongshyrngan near Bri War Resort where he sexually assaulted her and later dropped her back to her place of stay.
It was also alleged that the sexual assault was earlier committed by him on the girl on December 11, 2020. This was narrated to the mother by her minor daughter.
However, the minor daughter has also stated that the sexual act was committed with her consent. The mother though has objected to her daughter’s relationship as according to her, underage marriage is illegal.
After filing of the FIR, the police of Pynursla immediately took action and arrested the teenager on December 18, 2020 under Section 5(l)/6 of POCSO Act and investigation was launched accordingly.
In due course, the investigation was completed, including the recording of statements of the complainant, the victim and other relevant witnesses under Sections 161 and 164 Cr PC respectively.
The investigating officer then filed the charge sheet on March 10, 2021 finding that a prima facie case was duly established against the accused and a plea was made to put him up for trial. A regular case being Special (POCSO) Case No 10 of 2021 was then registered and the matter is now pending before the learned Special Judge(POCSO), Shillong.
The mother of the accused later moved the High Court seeking bail for her son.
C B Sawian, lawyer for the accused submitted before the High Court that from the FIR and the statements of the complainant, the girl and the teacher with whom the girl was residing, it can be seen that there is a relationship between the girl and the accused and that both of them are teenagers.
Stating that the accused person is 19 years old, Sawian also submitted that being a teenager the accused is incapable of understanding the consequences of his action and keeping him incarcerated in jail with other inmates, some of whom may be hardened criminals will have an impact on his future career.
Sawian submitted that the POCSO Act has been enacted to prevent cases of sexual assault on children but the Act does not contemplate punishment of teenagers who are involved in romantic love.
Sawian maintained that the relationship between the accused person and the girl is one of romantic love. She also stated that it is a matter of evidence as to whether the alleged act constitutes sexual assault as per the provision of the POCSO Act.
Another limb of argument raised by Sawian is that the accused person is in judicial custody for almost eleven months and the POCSO Act stipulates that cases under this Act have to be disposed of within one year which could not be done so in this case and as such, the accused should be released on bail with any conditions.
After examining the records, particularly the statement of the girl and the accused, the High Court said that 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”.
The High Court also observed that “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 High Court is of the considered opinion that at this juncture the plea for grant of bail to the accused person can be allowed.