The Delhi High Court has granted bail to a 23-year-old man in a POCSO Act case arising from his consensual physical relationship with a minor girl, saying putting a “young boy” in the company of hardened criminals will do more harm than good to him.
Justice Vikas Mahajan observed that the minor girl, aged 17 years and half at the relevant time, had sufficient maturity and intellectual capacity, and was prima facie in a consensual romantic relationship with the accused. The physical relationship between them was of their own free will, he said.
The judge noted the high court had said in an earlier verdict that the intention of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) was to protect children below the age of 18 years from sexual exploitation and it was never meant to criminalise consensual romantic relationship between young adults.
“The petitioner, who is presently aged about 23 years, is already in custody since 15.10.2021. Keeping the petitioner in jail will not serve any useful purpose, rather subjecting young boy in the company of hardened criminals would do more harm than good to him,” said the court in a recent order.
“Accordingly, the petitioner is admitted to regular bail subject to his furnishing personal bond in the sum of Rs. 20,000/- and a Surety Bond in the like amount subject to the satisfaction of the Trial Court/CMM/Duty Magistrate,” the court ordered.
In the present case, the FIR was registered at the instance of the girl alleging that the accused was her neighbour who befriended her and established physical relationship with her on the pretext that he would marry her.
The girl subsequently discovered that she was pregnant and her medical examination revealed it was too late for abortion.
In its order, the court recorded that the prosecutrix asserted in her statement that she never wanted to get a case registered against the petitioner but it seemed that the FIR was lodged by her “at the insistence of her family who were perhaps embarrassed after the discovery of prosecutrix’s pregnancy which had surpassed the stage of its termination”.
“This court is cognizant of the fact that the prosecutrix was minor at the time of incident but at the same time it cannot be overlooked that the prosecturix was aged 17.5 years and was thus, of sufficient maturity and intellectual capacity. The petitioner at the relevant time was aged about 20 years,” it said.
The court observed that the object of judicial custody is to secure the presence of the accused during the trial which can be ensured by putting in place appropriate conditions.
The testimonies of the prosecutrix and her mother have already been recorded, therefore, there cannot be any apprehension about the material witnesses being influenced, it added.
The court asked the petitioner not to leave the city without permission and appear before the trial court whenever the case is taken up for hearing.
It also asked him to keep his mobile in working condition and not communicate with the witnesses or family members of the witnesses.