New Delhi: A Delhi court recently acquitted an individual who was charged with rape and sexual assault under the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act, as it held that “the victim is a Muslim and as per the Muslim law she attained the age of puberty [adulthood] at the age of 14”.
The case has its genesis in a complaint filed by a father on November 29, 2013, looking for his missing girl aged 17 years and five months, whom he suspected to have been kidnapped by the accused, who was a resident of the same locality.
Since sexual intercourse with a minor (below 18 years) is against the law (if challenged) after a Supreme Court ruling, Additional Sessions Judge, Amit Kumar of the Rohini (North West) District Court said, “Though she was a minor, she had attained the age of discretion. It cannot be ignored that the victim is a Muslim and as per the Muslim law she attained the age of puberty at the age of 14 years, and got married after attaining the age of puberty.”
The judge also declared the victim an unreliable witness.
After the production of the birth certificate it was established that the victim was a minor at the time of her marriage and thus Section 366 of the Indian Penal Code was slapped on the accused. Subsequently, he was arrested.
However, the victim, later in April 21, 2014, complained that she was been sexually assaulted by the accused. Following this she stated that not only was she kidnapped the first time by using a sedative laced handkerchief, but that she was also forcefully confined in Jammu where the accused had raped her. She even dismissed the wedding saying that the wedding pictures were clicked by the accused to misdirect the police.
“The accused kept me there for three days and raped me (mein roti chilati rahi). I was in pain at that time. I requested accused and his aunt to take me back to my parental home but they threatened to kill me. Accused had also brought clothes of his sister for me, but I refused to wear the said clothes. On my refusal, accused and his aunt gave severe beatings to me,” said the victim in her statement.
However, the accused had squarely refused such a version stating that “he was falsely implicated in this case at the instance of the parents of the victim because of different religion and no such incident ever took place”.
The accused made out a case that “it was only in April, 2014 that the victim made false allegation of kidnapping and sexual assault against the accused under pressure from her parents”.
The judge pointed out that it was unbelievable that the girl was accompanied to Jammu without her consent and manage to evade the attention of passengers through the entire journey.
“The victim admittedly did not raise any alarm in the entire journey from Delhi to Jammu and from Jammu to Delhi which shows that she went to Jammu of her own with the accused and was neither forced nor enticed nor she was made unconscious by the accused,” the judge noted.
The court has noted the existing legal position too by stating that a marriage of a minor is not void ab initio but is voidable at the instance of the victim or challenged by the victim. “The victim never took any steps to declare her marriage void,” said Judge Kumar.