Nawabuddin vs State of Uttarakhand - POCSO Judgment 2022 Supreme Court

Nawabuddin vs State of Uttarakhand - POCSO Judgment 2022 Supreme Court

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.144 OF 2022
Nawabuddin                ..Appellant(S)
Versus
State of Uttarakhand             ..Respondent(S)
J U D G M E N T 
M. R. Shah, J.
1. Feeling   aggrieved   and   dissatisfied   with   the   impugned
judgment and order dated 22.08.2019 passed by the High
Court of Uttarakhand at Nainital in Criminal Appeal No.
280 of 2018 by which the High Court has dismissed the
said appeal preferred by the accused – appellant herein
and has confirmed the conviction of the accused for the
offences punishable under Sections 376(2)(i) of IPC and
Section   5/6   of   the   Protection   of   Children   From   Sexual
Offences   Act,   2012   (hereinafter   referred   to   as   “POCSO
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Act”),   the   original   accused   has   preferred   the   present
appeal.     
2. That as per the case of the prosecution on 17.06.2016 at
about 5:00 pm, the first informant (PW­1) had gone to
fetch water and her husband was out for work. At that
time, her daughter (victim girl) aged four years was all
alone in the house. The accused – appellant herein who
was a neighbour of PW­1, enticed and took the victim girl
in   the   bushes   to   rape   her.   However,   at   that   time   the
accused   was   spotted   by   some   persons   naked   in   the
process of raping the victim girl. The accused and the
victim girl were disrobed. The people who had gathered
around caught the accused red handed and handed him
over   to   the   police.   That   a   first   information   report   was
lodged by PW­1 – mother of the victim girl for the offences
punishable under Sections 376 read with 511 of IPC and
Section   3/4   of   the   POCSO   Act.   The   victim   girl   was
medically examined by PW­10 – Dr. Vandana Sundriyal on
17.06.2016.   During   the   course   of   investigation   the
statement of the victim girl as well as the witnesses were
recorded.   After   conclusion   of   the   investigation   the
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investigating   officer   filed   the   chargesheet   against   the
accused for the offences punishable under Section 376(2)
(F) of IPC and Section 3/4 of the POCSO Act. The charges
were   framed   against   the   accused   for   the   offences
punishable under Section 376(2)(i) of IPC and Section 5/6
of the POCSO Act. The accused denied the charges and
claimed to be tried. Therefore, he was tried by the learned
Special Judge (POCSO Act) for the aforesaid offences. 
2.1 To prove the charges against the accused and to prove the
case,   the   prosecution   examined   as   many   as   thirteen
witnesses including PW­1 – mother of the victim girl and
PW­10 – Dr. Vandana Sundriyal who examined the victim
girl   on   17.06.2016.   After   closure   of   the   prosecution
evidence, statement of the accused under Section 313 of
Cr.PC   was   recorded.   His   case   was   of   total   denial.   On
appreciation   of   evidence   and   more   particularly   relying
upon the deposition of PW­10 ­ Dr. Vandana Sundriyal
before whom the victim girl narrated the entire incident,
the Trial Court held the accused guilty for the offences
punishable under Section 376(2)(i) of IPC and Section 6 of
the   POCSO   Act,   2012.   The   Trial   Court   sentenced   the
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accused to undergo life imprisonment and also directed to
pay monetary fine of Rs.50,000/­. The Trial Court also
passed   an   order   that   out   of   the   amount   of   fine   of
Rs.50,000/­, Rs.30,000/­ shall be paid to the victim girl as
compensation.                 
3. Feeling   aggrieved   and   dissatisfied   with   the   impugned
judgment and order of conviction and sentence passed by
the learned Trial Court/Special Judge (POCSO Act), the
accused preferred an appeal before the High Court. Before
the   High   Court,   amongst   other   grounds,   one   of   the
grounds was that the case would not fall under Section
5/6 of the POCSO Act and at the most the case may fall
under Section 7/8 of the POCSO Act as there was no
penetration and at the most and even as per the case of
the prosecution the accused had tried to commit the rape.
By the detailed impugned judgment and order, the High
Court has dismissed the said appeal and has confirmed
the   conviction   of   the   accused   and   the   sentence   of   life
imprisonment. Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the
impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court,
the accused has preferred the present appeal.
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4. Shri Saju Jacob, learned counsel appearing on behalf of
the accused – appellant has vehemently submitted that in
the facts and circumstances of the case the High Court
has committed a grave error in dismissing the appeal and
confirming the judgment and order of conviction passed by
the   learned   Trial   Court   convicting   the   accused   for   the
offences punishable under Section 5/6 of the POCSO Act. 
4.1 It   is   submitted   that   in   fact   the   witnesses   have   not
supported the case of the prosecution. It is submitted that
the accused could not have been convicted on the sole
testimony of PW­10 ­ Dr. Vandana Sundriyal. 
4.2 It is further submitted by learned counsel appearing on
behalf of the accused that even in the present case so
called recording of the incident in the mobile has not been
established and proved by the prosecution by leading any
cogent evidence.
4.3 It is further submitted by learned counsel appearing on
behalf of the accused that even as per the prosecution
case, it was only an attempt of aggravated sexual assault.
It   is   submitted   that   in   absence   of   penetration   and
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aggravated penetrative sexual assault, the appellant could
not have been convicted for the offences punishable under
Section 5/6 of the POCSO Act. 
4.4 It is vehemently contended by learned counsel appearing
on   behalf   of   the   accused   that   even   considering   the
prosecution case as it is, at the most the case would fall
under sexual assault punishable under Section 8 of the
POCSO Act. It is urged that in any case the case would not
fall under aggravated penetrative sexual assault. 
4.5 In   the   alternative,   it   is   submitted   by   learned   counsel
appearing on behalf of the accused that at the time of the
alleged incident accused was aged approximately 65 years
of   age   and   as   on   today   he   is   75   years   of   age.   It   is
submitted that as per Section 6 of the POCSO Act as it
stood   on   the   date   of   incident   the   minimum   sentence
provided   was   ten   years   but   which   may   extend   to
imprisonment   for   life.   It   is   therefore   submitted   that
imposing life sentence is too harsh and disproportionate to
the offence committed. Therefore, it is prayed to impose a
lesser punishment than the life imprisonment.          
     
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5. Shri   Krishnam   Mishara,   learned   counsel   appearing   on
behalf of the  State of Uttarakhand, while opposing  the
present   appeal   has   vehemently   submitted   that   in   the
present case as such the prosecution has proved the case
beyond doubt. It is submitted that PW­10 ­ Dr. Vandana
Sundriyal   who   is   an   independent   witness   has   fully
supported the case of the prosecution. 
5.1 It is further contended by learned counsel appearing on
behalf of the State that this is a case of penetrative sexual
assault as defined under Section 3(b) of the POCSO Act. It
is submitted that as per Section 5(m) whoever commits
penetrative sexual assault on a child below twelve years, it
can be said to be an aggravated penetrative sexual assault
punishable under Section 6 of the POCSO Act. 
5.2 It is urged by learned counsel appearing on behalf of the
State that the accused in the present case was a neighbour
of the victim girl; he misused his position as a neighbour
and tried to penetrate his finger and then tried to commit
rape on the minor girl. However, before he could succeed
in committing rape, he was caught red handed by the local
persons.   It   is   submitted   that   the   entire   incident   was
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narrated by the victim girl to Dr. Vandana Sundriyal – PW10.   It   is   therefore   submitted   that   when   the   accused
misused his position as a neighbour and committed the
offence under the POCSO Act upon a girl aged four years
and   looking   to   the   object   and   purpose   for   which   the
POCSO   Act   has   been   enacted,   no   leniency   should   be
shown to the accused. It is submitted that in the facts and
circumstances of the case the accused does not deserve
any sympathy or any leniency. 
5.3 Making the above submissions it is prayed to dismiss the
present appeal.         
6. We have heard the learned counsel appearing on behalf of
the respective parties at length. 
7. At the outset it is required to be noted that there are
concurrent findings recorded by both the Courts below,
recorded on appreciation of evidence on record to the effect
that the accused tried to commit the offence of rape on the
victim girl aged four years. It has been established and
proved by the prosecution that the victim girl was lured by
the appellant – accused; she was taken to the bushes;
accused removed his own clothes as well as the clothes of
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the   victim   girl   and   fondled   her   private   parts   and
penetrated his finger into the vagina of the victim girl. The
same is fully supported by Dr. Vandana Sundriyal – PW10, who examined the victim girl on 17.06.2016 and before
whom the victim girl narrated the entire incident to her
which was recorded in exhibit A­6 – medical examination
report. As per Dr. Vandana Sundriyal – PW­10 who is an
independent   witness,   the   victim   girl   told   her   that   the
accused tried to penetrate his finger and therefore she felt
pain and irritation in urination as well as she also felt pain
in her body. As per PW­10 there was redness and swelling
around the vagina. Though the other witnesses who seem
to have been won over might not have supported the case
of   the   prosecution,   we   see   no   reason   to   doubt   the
deposition of PW­10 ­ Dr. Vandana Sundriyal, who is an
independent witness. There are no allegations on behalf of
the accused that there was any enmity with Dr. Vandana
Sundriyal. Therefore, we are of the opinion that it is safe to
convict the accused relying upon the deposition of PW­10 ­
Dr.   Vandana   Sundriyal   before   whom   the   victim   girl
narrated the entire incident which was recorded in the
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medical examination report namely exhibit A­6. Thus, it
has been established and proved by the prosecution that
the accused took the victim girl away from the house; took
her deep into the bushes; disrobed her and removed his
clothes as well; penetrated his finger in the vagina, due to
which the victim girl felt pain and irritation in urination
and he was about to force himself upon her and commit
the offence of rape when he was caught red handed.
7.1 Now the next question which is posed for the consideration
of this Court is, what offence the accused had committed.
The   Trial   Court   convicted   the   accused   for   the   offences
punishable under Sections 376(2)(i) of IPC and Section 5/6
of the POCSO Act. It is the case on behalf of the accused
that at the most it can be said to be an attempt to commit
penetrative sexual assault and therefore at the most it can
be said to be the case of sexual assault under Section 7 of
the POCSO Act punishable under Section 8 of the POCSO
Act. Therefore, it is the case on behalf of the accused that
as it is neither a case of penetrative sexual assault nor
aggravated   penetrative   sexual   assault,   therefore   the
punishment   of   life   imprisonment   imposed   was   not
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warranted and at the highest he could have been punished
with imprisonment of either description for a term which
shall not be less than three years but which may extend to
five years, and shall also be liable to fine. 
8. While appreciating the aforesaid submissions the relevant
provisions of the POCSO Act are required to be referred to
and   considered.   Section   3   of   the   POCSO   Act   defines
‘penetrative sexual assault’. As per Section 3 of the Act, a
person is said to commit ‘penetrative sexual assault’ if­(b)
he inserts, to any extent, any object of a part of the body,
not   being   the   penis,   into   the   vagina……….   Section   4
provides   ‘punishment   for   penetrative   sexual   assault’.
Section 5 of the Act defines ‘aggravated penetrative sexual
assault’   and   as   per   Section   5(m)   whoever   commits
penetrative sexual assault on a child below twelve years it
is   aggravated   penetrative   sexual   assault.   Section   6
provides   ‘punishment   for   aggravated   penetrative   sexual
assault.’ In the present case, it has been established and
proved that the accused penetrated his finger in the vagina
and because of that the victim girl felt pain and irritation
in urination as well as pain on her body and there was
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redness   and   swelling   around   the   vagina   found   by   the
doctor. We are of the opinion that therefore the case would
fall under Section 3(b) of the POCSO Act and it can be said
to be penetrative sexual assault and considering Section
5(m) of the POCSO Act as such penetrative sexual assault
was committed on a girl child aged four years (below twelve
years) the same can be said to be ‘aggravated penetrative
sexual assault’ punishable under Section 6 of the POCSO
Act. Therefore, both, the Trial Court as well as the High
Court have rightly convicted the accused for the offences
under   Section   5   of   the   POCSO   Act   punishable   under
Section 6 of the POCSO Act.
9. Now in so far as the prayer on behalf of the accused –
appellant herein to take a lenient view in the matter by
considering   mitigating   circumstances   of   old   age   of   the
accused and to alter the life imprisonment to any other
punishment is concerned, the same has to be considered
in light of the object and purpose of enactment of the
POCSO Act. 
9.1 In the case of  Eera  Vs.  State   (NCT  of Delhi), (2017) 15
SCC 133, this Court has observed on the Statement and
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Objects and Reasons of POCSO Act in para 20 as under: ­
“20.   The   purpose   of   referring   to   the   Statement   of
Objects   and   Reasons   and   the   Preamble   of
the Pocso Act is to appreciate that the very purpose of
bringing   a   legislation   of   the   present   nature   is   to
protect   the   children   from   the   sexual   assault,
harassment and exploitation, and to secure the best
interest   of   the   child.   On   an   avid   and   diligent
discernment   of   the   Preamble,   it   is   manifest   that   it
recognises the necessity of the right to privacy and
confidentiality of a child to be protected and respected
by every person by all means and through all stages of
a judicial process involving the child. Best interest and
well­being   are   regarded   as   being   of   paramount
importance   at   every   stage   to   ensure   the   healthy
physical,   emotional,   intellectual   and   social
development of the child. There is also a stipulation
that sexual exploitation and sexual abuse are heinous
offences   and   need   to   be   effectively   addressed.   The
Statement   of   Objects   and   Reasons   provides   regard
being had to the constitutional mandate, to direct its
policy towards securing that the tender age of children
is not abused and their childhood is protected against
exploitation and they are given facilities to develop in a
healthy   manner   and   in   conditions   of   freedom   and
dignity.   There   is   also   a   mention   which   is   quite
significant that interest of the child, both as a victim
as well as a witness, needs to be protected. The stress
is on providing child­friendly procedure. Dignity of the
child has been laid immense emphasis in the scheme
of   legislation.   Protection   and   interest   occupy   the
seminal place in the text of the Pocso Act.”
9.2 In the case of Alakh Alok Srivastava Vs. Union of India
&   Ors. (2018)   17   SCC   291,   in   para   14   and   20,   it   is
observed as under: ­
“14. At   the   very   outset,   it   has   to   be   stated   with
authority   that   the Pocso Act   is   a   gender   neutral
legislation.   This   Act   has   been   divided   into   various
chapters and parts therein. Chapter II of the Act titled
“Sexual Offences Against Children” is segregated into
five parts. Part A of the said Chapter contains two
sections, namely, Section 3 and Section 4. Section 3
defines   the   offence   of   “Penetrative   Sexual   Assault”
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whereas Section 4 lays down the punishment for the
said   offence.   Likewise,   Part   B   of   the   said   Chapter
titled   “Aggravated   Penetrative   Sexual   Assault   and
Punishment therefor” contains two sections, namely,
Section 5 and Section 6. The various sub­sections of
Section   5   copiously   deal   with   various   situations,
circumstances and categories of persons where the
offence of penetrative sexual assault would take the
character   of   the   offence   of   aggravated   penetrative
sexual assault. Section 5(k), in particular, while laying
emphasis on the mental stability of a child stipulates
that where an offender commits penetrative sexual
assault on a child, by taking advantage of the child's
mental or physical disability, it shall amount to an
offence of aggravated penetrative sexual assault.”
“20. Speaking about the child, a three­Judge Bench
in M.C. Mehta v. State of T.N. (1996) 6 SCC 756
“1. … “child  is the  father of man”.  To  enable
fathering of a valiant and vibrant man, the child must
be groomed well in the formative years of his life. He
must  receive education,  acquire knowledge  of  man
and materials and blossom in such an atmosphere
that on reaching age, he is found to be a man with a
mission, a man who matters so far as the society is
concerned.”
9.3 As   it   can   be   seen   from   the   Statement   of   objects   and
reasons   of   the   POCSO   Act   since   the   sexual   offences
against   children   were   not   adequately   addressed   by   the
existing laws and a large number of such offences were
neither specifically provided for nor were they adequately
penalised, the POCSO Act has been enacted to protect the
children   from   the   offences   of   sexual   assault,   sexual
harassment   and   pornography   and   to   provide   for
establishment of special courts for trial of such offences
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and   for   matters   connected   therewith   and   incidental
thereto.
9.4 At this stage, it is required to be noted that the POCSO Act
has been enacted keeping in mind Article 15 and 39 of the
Constitution of India. Article 15 of the Constitution, inter
alia,   confers   upon   the   State   powers   to   make   special
provision for children. Article 39, inter alia, provides that
the   State   shall   in   particular   direct   its   policy   towards
securing that the tender age of children are not abused
and   their   childhood   and   youth   are   protected   against
exploitation and they are given facilities to develop in a
healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity.
To   achieve   the   goal   as   per   Article   15   and   39   of   the
Constitution, the legislature has enacted the Protection of
Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
9.5 As noted in the Statement of objects and reasons, as per
the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children,
to which India is a signatory to the treaty, the State Parties
to   undertake   all   appropriate   national,   bilateral   and
multilateral measures to prevent  (a)  the  inducement  or
coercion   of   a   child   to   engage   in   any   unlawful   sexual
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activity; (b) the exploitative use of children in prostitution
or other unlawful sexual practices; and (c) the exploitative
use   of   children   in   pornographic   performances   and
materials. 
Article 19 of the Convention states the following: ­
1. States   Parties   shall   take   all   appropriate
legislative,   administrative,   social   and
educational measures to protect the child from
all form/s of physical or mental violence, injury
or   abuse,   neglect   or   negligent   treatment,
maltreatment   or  exploitation,   including   sexual
abuse,   while   in   the   care   of   parent(s),   legal
guardian(s)   or  any  other  person  who  has  the
care of the child. 
2. Such   protective   measures   should,   as
appropriate, include effective procedures for the
establishment of social programmes to provide
necessary support for the child and for those
who have the care of the child, as well as for
other forms of prevention and for identification,
reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and
follow­up   of   instances   of   child   maltreatment
described   heretofore,   and,   as   appropriate,   for
judicial involvement.          
The   general   comment   No.13   on   the   Convention
specifically dealt with the right of the child to freedom from
all forms of violence and it has observed that “no violence
against children is justifiable; all violence against children
is preventable”
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10. Keeping in mind the aforesaid objects and to achieve what
has   been   provided   under   Article   15   and   39   of   the
Constitution to protect children from the offences of sexual
assault,   sexual   harassment,   the  POCSO   Act,   2012   has
been   enacted.   Any   act   of   sexual   assault   or   sexual
harassment   to   the   children   should   be   viewed   very
seriously and all such offences of sexual assault, sexual
harassment on the children have to be dealt with in a
stringent manner and no leniency should be shown to a
person who has committed the offence under the POCSO
Act. By awarding a suitable punishment commensurate
with   the   act   of   sexual   assault,   sexual   harassment,   a
message must be conveyed to the society at large that, if
anybody commits any offence under the POCSO Act of
sexual assault, sexual harassment or use of children for
pornographic   purposes   they   shall   be   punished   suitably
and no leniency shall be shown to them. Cases of sexual
assault   or   sexual   harassment   on   the   children   are
instances  of   perverse  lust   for  sex  where  even   innocent
children are not spared in pursuit of such debased sexual
pleasure. 
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Children are precious human resources of our country;
they are the country’s future. The hope of tomorrow rests
on them. But unfortunately, in our country, a girl child is
in a very vulnerable position. There are different modes of
her exploitation, including sexual assault and/or sexual
abuse.   In   our   view,   exploitation   of   children   in   such   a
manner   is   a   crime   against   humanity   and   the   society.
Therefore, the children and more particularly the girl child
deserve   full   protection   and   need   greater   care   and
protection   whether   in   the   urban   or   rural   areas.   As
observed and held by this Court in the case of  State  of
Rajasthan Vs. Om Prakash, (2002) 5 SCC 745,  children
need   special   care   and   protection   and,   in   such   cases,
responsibility   on   the   shoulders   of   the   Courts   is   more
onerous so as to provide proper legal protection to these
children. In the case of Nipun Saxena v. Union of India,
(2019) 2 SCC 703, it is observed by this Court that a minor
who is subjected to sexual abuse needs to be protected
even more than a major victim because a major victim
being an adult may still be able to withstand the social
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ostracization and mental harassment meted out by society,
but a minor victim will  find it difficult to do so. Most
crimes against minor victims are not even reported as very
often, the perpetrator of the crime is a member of the
family of the victim or a close friend. Therefore, the child
needs   extra   protection.   Therefore,   no   leniency   can   be
shown   to   an   accused   who   has   committed   the   offences
under the POCSO Act, 2012 and particularly when the
same is proved by adequate evidence before a court of law.
10.1  In the present case it is to be noted that the accused was
aged   approximately   65   years   of   age   at   the   time   of
commission of offence. He was a neighbour of the victim
girl.  He  took  advantage of   the  absence  of  her  parents,
when her mother went to fetch water and her father had
gone to work. He is found to have committed aggravated
penetrative sexual assault (as observed hereinabove) on a
girl child aged four years, which demonstrates the mental
state or mindset of the accused. As a neighbour, in fact, it
was the duty of the accused to protect the victim girl when
alone   rather   than   exploiting   her   innocence   and
vulnerability. The victim was barely a four years girl. The
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accused   –   appellant   was   the   neighbour.   The   accused
instead of showing fatherly love, affection and protection to
the child against the evils of the society, rather made her
the   victim   of   lust.   It   is   a   case   where   trust   has   been
betrayed and social values are impaired. Therefore, the
accused as such does not deserve any sympathy and/or
any leniency. 
However,   the   punishment   provided   for   the   offence
under Section 6, as it stood prior to its amendment and at
the time of commission of the offence in the instant case
for   aggravated   penetrative   sexual   assault   was   rigours
imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than ten
years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and
shall   also   be   liable   to   fine.   Now   as   per   the   amended
Section   6   with   effect   from   16.08.2019,   the   minimum
punishment   provided   is   twenty   years   and   which   may
extend   to   imprisonment   for   life,   which   shall   mean
imprisonment   for   the   remainder   of   natural   life   of   that
person, and shall also be liable to fine, or with death.
Therefore, at the relevant time the minimum punishment
provided for the offence under Section 6 of the POCSO Act,
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2012   was   ten   years   RI   and   which   may   extend   to
imprisonment for life. It is reported that today the accused
is aged 70­75 years of age and it is also reported that he is
suffering   from   Tuberculosis   (TB).   Therefore,   considering
such mitigating circumstances we are of the opinion that if
the life sentence is converted to fifteen years RI and the
fine imposed by the Trial Court confirmed by the High
Court to be maintained, it can be said to be an adequate
punishment commensurate with the offence committed by
the accused. 
11. In view of the above discussion the impugned judgment
and   order   passed   by   the   High   Court   and   the   learned
Special   Court   convicting   the   accused   for   the   offences
punishable under Sections 376(2)(i) of IPC and Section 5 of
the   POCSO   Act   and   imposing   the   punishment   under
Section 6 of the POCSO Act is hereby upheld. The accused
is rightly held guilty for the aforesaid offences. However,
for the reasons assigned hereinabove the sentence of life
imprisonment is converted to that of fifteen (15) years RI
with   fine/compensation   imposed   by   the   Trial   Court
confirmed   by   the   High   Court.   Now   the   accused   shall
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undergo fifteen (15) years RI with fine imposed by the Trial
Court   confirmed   by   the   High   Court   for   the   aforesaid
offences instead of life imprisonment. The present appeal
is partly allowed to the aforesaid extent only.                 
…………………………………J.
  (M. R. SHAH)
…………………………………J.
 (B.V. NAGARATHNA)
New Delhi, 
February,  08th 2022
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Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले

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