Something which was quite unpredictable yet happened on Saturday when the Bombay high court convicted a man after twenty-one years of his acquittal under charges of raping an 11-year-old girl.
The Court ruled,
“Even though the incident took place in 1996, we remain with the fervent hope and confidence that protecting the confidence of the common man in the institution entrusted with the administration of justice is reaffirmed."
The High Court division bench of Justices Indrajit Mahanty and Vishwas Jadhav overturned a verdict rendered by the Trial court in 1997 and held the accused guilty of rape and handed him seven years imprisonment.
The bench not only declined to entertain his plea seeking leniency, also directed the accused, Sonawane to pay an amount of Rs.1 lakh as compensation to the rape survivor and gave him a month to surrender.
The High Court also directed the legal services authority to pursue the rape victim and to help her to get compensation as per the Maharashtra government scheme for rape survivors.
The bench while noting that the survivor had categorically denied that the intercourse was because of her consent said,
“The absence of any injury on her body cannot lead to a conclusion that she had given her consent and all that it indicates is that she did not put up resistance. Lack of any resistance or absence of injury on the body of the victim are of no consequence vis a vis the issue of consent."
During the course of arguments, the high court noted that the Trial Court, mechanically calculated the age of survivor and erred in its judgement while providing the benefit of “plus-two, minus-two years” principle to the accused.
It is to be noted that the Trial Court in 1997 had acquitted Macchindra Sonawane on the basis of an X-ray ossification test of the victim that estimated her age as 14 and after considering the two-three-year as margin of error, the Court deliberated that the victim was of age 16, which was deemed as the age of consent at that time, which is now 18.
A brief background of the case, in 1996, in Nashik, the survivor was once alone at her home and visited the culprit's shop for purchasing a medicine. The culprit forcibly hauled the girl to his room and assaulted her sexually. After raping her, he threw the girl out of his house.
Victim’s family discovered her in blood-stained clothes and during her treatment it got confirmed that she had undergone forcible sexual intercourse.
The High Court considered that the Trial Judge while acquitting the accused has lost sight of the provisions of Evidence Act, and consequently erred regarding the issue of consent.