The Supreme Court has set aside the conviction and 10-year jail term awarded to a man for sexually assaulting his minor niece, noting that they are now married and have kids and the court cannot shut its eyes to the ground reality and disturb their happy family life. The apex court, which was informed about the custom in Tamil Nadu of the marriage of a girl with her maternal uncle, said considering the facts and circumstances of the case, the conviction and sentence of the man deserve to be set aside. This court cannot shut its eyes to the ground reality and disturb the happy family life of the appellant (man) and the prosecutrix. We have been informed about the custom in Tamil Nadu of the marriage of a girl with the maternal uncle, a bench of Justices L N Rao and B R Gavai said.
For the aforesaid mentioned reasons, the conviction and sentence of the appellant are set aside in the peculiar facts of the case and shall not be treated as a precedent, the bench said while disposing of the man’s appeal challenging his conviction and punishment. The top court said in case the man does not take proper care of the woman, she or the State on her behalf can approach the court for modification of this court.
It noted that an FIR was lodged against the man for the offences under the Protection of Child from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act for sexually assaulting the minor girl and after trial, he was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in jail by a court in Tiruppur in Tamil Nadu in October 2018. His conviction and sentence were later upheld by the high court in February 2019, after which he approached the apex court.
The man’s counsel submitted before the top court that the allegation against him was that he had physical relations with the girl on the promise of marrying her and added that he married her and they have two children. The counsel said it could not be in the interest of justice to disturb the family life of the man and the woman.
The bench noted in its May 9 order that it had earlier directed the district judge to record the woman’s statement about her present status. It said her statement was placed on record in which she stated that she has two children and they are being taken care of by the man and that she is leading a happy married life.
The plea was opposed by the counsel for the state on the ground that the woman was 14-year-old on the date of the offence and gave birth to the first child when she was 15 years and the second child was born when she was 17 years. The state’s counsel argued that the marriage between the man and the prosecutrix was not legal and also expressed his apprehension that the marriage might be only to escape punishment. The bench noted that the conviction and sentence of the man deserve to be set aside in view of the subsequent events that have been brought to the notice of the court.
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