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Caste can't be used to show leniency in child sexual assault case: Supreme Court [Read Judgement]

By LAWSTREET NEWS NETWORK      12 October, 2023 01:22 PM      0 Comments
Caste cant be used to show leniency in child sexual assault case Supreme Court

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has said caste of the accused cannot be considered for showing leniency in a case related to sexual assault of a young girl of five to six years of age.

The top court also said caste of the accused should never be mentioned in the cause title of a case.

"We fail to understand why the caste of the accused has been mentioned in the cause title of the judgments of the High Court and the Trial Court. The caste or religion of a litigant should never be mentioned in the cause title of the judgment," a bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Pankaj Mithal said.

The court was hearing an appeal filed by the Rajasthan government against the High Court's judgement which reduced sentence awarded to accused Gautam from life imprisonment to 12 years in jail for offences of rape under the IPC and assault under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

After finding that this is a case which shocks the conscience of the Court, the bench enhanced the sentence to 14 years.

"The offence is so gruesome and heinous that it will impact the victim for her entire life. The childhood of the victim has been destroyed. The victim's life has been ruined due to the trauma and everlasting impact on her mind. It must have converted the victim into a psychological wreck," the bench said.

The court noted the HC showed leniency to the accused as he was 22-year-old youth belonging to a poor Scheduled Caste family. The HC also recorded that he was not a habitual offender.

"This is a case which impacts the society. If undue leniency is shown to the respondent in the facts of the case, it will undermine the common man's confidence in the justice delivery system. The punishment must be commensurate with the gravity of the offence. When it comes to sentencing, the Court is not only concerned with the accused but the crime as well," the bench said.

With regard to the HC's views, the bench said, "The law takes care of habitual offenders by imposing stringent punishment under Section 376 of IPC (of life imprisonment for repeat offender). As law prescribes a minimum sentence, the fact that the respondent–accused was suffering incarceration from 8th May 2014 is not material. The caste of the accused is, per se, not a consideration for showing leniency in the cases of such offences."

The bench, however, said the young age of the accused and the fact that he has undergone 12 years of sentence imposed by the HC came in its way in restoring sentence of life imprisonment.

Of Rs 25,000 fine, the top court ordered a sum of Rs 20,000 should be paid to the victim.

The bench also directed the Secretary of the Rajasthan State Legal Services Authority to ensure that the compensation is paid to the victim under the victim compensation scheme of the State.

The court also suggested whenever a child is subjected to sexual assault, the State or the Legal Services Authorities should ensure that the child is provided with a facility of counselling by a trained child counsellor or child psychologist.

As a welfare State, it will be the duty of the Government to do so, the bench added.

"It will help the victim children to come out of the trauma, which will enable them to lead a better life in future. The State needs to ensure that the children who are the victims of the offence continue with their education. The social environment around the victim child may not always be conducive to the victim's rehabilitation," the bench said.

The court further pointed out only the monetary compensation is not enough.

"Only the payment of compensation will not amount to rehabilitation in a true sense.  Perhaps the rehabilitation of the girl victims in life should be part of the “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” campaign of the Central Government," the bench said.

 

[Read Judgement]



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