Victims' false depiction as minor under POCSO abuse of process of court: Allahabad High Court [18.4.2024]

The Allahabad High Court has directed that in cases of sexual offences against children, police must ensure that a medical report determining the victim's age is drawn up at the outset and is submitted to the court without any delay.

The court said discrepancies in the victim's age in POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) cases can substantially affect the rights and liberties of the accused.

It granted bail to Ghaziabad-resident Aman, alias Vansh, who was lodged in the jail since December 5, 2023 last year in a POCSO case.

"False depiction of a victim as a minor in POCSO Act cases is an abuse of the process of court." Justice Ajay Bhanot said on Tuesday.

He observed that the victim's age as mentioned in the prosecution case is often found to be at variance with the age determined by the expert medical boards in a large number of cases.

"At times there are multiple contradictions in age-related documents available with the prosecution. Numerous cases of false implication and abuse of POCSO (Protection of Children from of Sexual Offences) Act have also been noticed. Runaway couples of young age are criminalized in the process," Justice Bhanot observed.

The accused's counsel submitted that the victim was wrongly shown as a 16-year-old minor in the FIR only to falsely implicate his client under the stringent provisions of the POCSO Act.

The court noted that in the instant case, the medical examination to determine the victim's age was not conducted at the time of the applicant's arrest. Instead, the report was prepared later revealing the victim's age to be 17 years.

While granting bail to the accused, the court took note of several instances of multiple contradictions within age-related documents provided by the prosecution.

Justice Bhanot further observed, "This Court is finding that in many instances the accused-applicants have argued that medical determination of the victim's age was not got done deliberately as it would establish the majority of the victim and repudiate the prosecution case.

"By falsely depicting the victim as a minor the accused persons are wrongly implicated under the stringent regime of the POCSO Act only to cause their indefinite imprisonment. "
Against these backdrop, the court directed that police authorities/investigation officers shall ensure that in every POCSO Act offence, a medical report determining the victim's age shall be drawn up at the outset under Section 164A of the Criminal Procedure Code read with Section 27 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.

The report may be dispensed with if medical opinion advises against it in the interests of the victim's health, the court said.

It said that the medical report determining the age of the victim shall be created as per established procedure of law and in adherence to latest scientific parameters and medical protocol.

The court further directed that the medical report determining the age of the victim shall be submitted under Section 164-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure to the Court without delay.

"The Director General (Health), Government of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow shall also ensure that the doctors who comprise the Medical Board are duly trained and follow the established medical protocol and scientific parameters for determining the age of the victims in such cases," the court said.

18 Apr 2024