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HC cuts jail term in Pocso case for lack of ‘valid reason’

BENGALURU: Pointing out that valid reasons must be assigned while awarding maximum sentence, the Karnataka high court recently commuted the sentence imposed upon an accused in a Pocso Act case to 10 years in jail. Partly allowing the appeal filed by the accused, 27, from Chikkamagaluru, a division bench comprising Justices Sreenivas Harish Kumar and CM Joshi, however, increased the fine slapped on him by a special court from Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000.
The accused had befriended a minor girl in his neighbourhood.In June 2016, he sexually assaulted her repeatedly. In Dec 2016, the girl’s mother lodged a complaint after she found her daughter pregnant. A girl was born and DNA test proved the accused was the biological father.
Police had registered an FIR and filed a chargesheet after conducting investigations. On June 11, 2018, a special court in Chikkamagaluru had awarded him life sentence under Section 6 of Pocso Act and Rs 5,000 fine after holding him guilty for criminal intimidation.
Challenging the verdict, the accused argued that age of the girl was not proven through proper and valid documents. After perusing the material on record, the division bench noted the oral testimony of the girl disclosed hinted at consent on her part. “Her consent is immaterial. Her actual age, at the time of the incident, was 12 years. But traces of consent militate against the imposition of maximum sentence under Section 6 of Pocso Act,” the bench added.
“We find that the sentence imposed is disproportionate inasmuch the special court has failed to assign reasons for imposing maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Accused has to be sentenced in accordance with law as it stood on the date of crime – Aug 16, 2019. Section 6 of Pocso Act, as it stood then, permitted imposition of a minimum sentence of 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment and maximum of life imprisonment. To subject an accused to maximum sentence requires assignment of valid reasons which are not forthcoming in the impugned judgment,” the division bench further observed while modifying the sentence awarded to the accused.

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