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The Allahabad High Court recently granted bail to a POCSO accused who had fled due to a romantic relationship between a 14-year-old girl (victim). The court said that they both ran away, got married in a temple, and lived with each other for almost two years, during which the girl gave birth to a child. A division bench of Justice Rahul Chaturvedi also observed that it would be extremely harsh and inhuman to deprive the child of the love and affection of the parents as both the accused and the minor victim were in love with each other and had decided to get married.
The Court, in an important clarification, also observed that the scheme of the POCSO Act clearly shows that it does not, within its scope or extent, cover matters of the nature where the juvenile or juvenile is involved in an intimate romantic relationship.
Case in a nutshell
In November 2019, the father of the minor girl filed an FIR against the accused/bail applicant (Atul Mishra) with the specific allegation that his minor daughter was seduced by him. Later a case was registered against him under sections 363, 366, 376. IPC; Section 3(2)V, 3(2)VA of the POCSO Act, 2012 and the SC/ST Act
Finally, about a year later, after getting information from the informer, the police arrested the victim and her young child along with the applicant from east of the bypass. Since the victim was a minor on the date of the incident. All the officers of the subordinate level sent him to the shelter home in Prayagraj and the applicant was sent to jail.
The Additional Sessions Judge/Special Judge (POCSO Act), Fatehpur rejected the bail application moved by the applicant in November 2021, and hence, he filed an urgent bail application before the court.
Initially, the Court observed that at the date of the incident, the victim was a minor girl and her 'consent' has no value in the eyes of law as per Section 375/376 IPC, however, the Court further noted that any The applicability of the statutory penal provision is not a mathematical explanation or theorem and thus, cannot be applied as such.
Continuing further, the Court insisted that certainly where the gravity of the punishment provided under the POCSO Act should be reduced keeping in view the facts of each case. In this regard, the Court observed as follows:
If these rigors of the act are chipped in haste or irresponsibly, it can cause irreparable damage to the reputation and future of those youths and can cause to spoil the future life of that innocent lover or couple. The relationship which began in innocence and subsequently established that relationship ... without understanding the far-reaching implications of its seriousness, is an issue which is of great concern to the conscience of this Court."
Importantly, the Court in its order also remarked that the decision of such couples may not be impulsive, immature but certainly sinful or tainted as branded in the FIR or informant.
It is important at this juncture to acknowledge the science and psychology of an adolescent and young adulthood. This is because social and biological events are widely recognized as determining human development, health, and socio-economic attainment over the course of life, but our understanding. Therefore, there is a need to adopt and appreciate a 'bio-social approach' which conceptualizes the biological and social needs of two adolescents, who are attracted by mutual infatuation and decide for their future." Coming back to the facts of the case, the Court observed that in the instant case, the juveniles had decided to tie the knot and now have a child from this relationship, therefore, the Court held that the rigors of the POCSO Act were on their way.