Andhra Pradesh

‘Rate of acquittal high in POCSO cases in State’

Victims had turned hostile during trial in majority of cases

Convictions in cases relating to sexual assault on girls were a poor 11.19% in Prakasam and Guntur districts, as the victims as also other witnesses turned hostile during trial, according to a study on the working of Special courts under the POCSO Act.

The rate of hostility, as observed from judgment analysis, was a shocking 77.5% in Andhra Pradesh, one of the highest rates among the five States where this study was conducted by the Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University, Bengaluru.

The rate of conviction in cases where the victim and the accused were involved in a relationship is significantly lower than in other cases under the POCSO Act.

In 16 cases (3.11%), the victim appeared before the court, but did not testify, either because the victim and the accused had reached a compromise outside court or the victim had been married to someone else, the report made available to The Hindu here says.

Conviction

Higher rates of conviction were seen in cases where the accused was a relative (15.38%), acquaintance (13.46%), neighbour (13.04%), or stalker (11.11%) of the victim. Boyfriends and friends of the victim, and strangers were convicted at a relatively lower rate of 9.83%, 8.33% and 7.61% respectively, whereas the rate of conviction for headmasters/teachers was an astoundingly low 4.76% as victim turned hostile.

However, in cases where the accused was the father/step-father or friend of the accused, no definite link could be drawn between the testimony of the victim and the outcome of the case, since acquittals were recorded despite the victim testifying against the accused. Of the 46 cases in which the testimony of the victim was considered reliable, 44 cases resulted in conviction (95.65%).

The accused was known to the victim in 381 cases (74.85%), and a stranger in 105 cases (20.58%), and the relationship between the victim and the accused was either not discussed or unclear in 23 of the cases (4.50%), it says, adding acquaintances formed the largest category (27.29%), followed by neighbours (18.11%).

Boyfriends constituted a significant proportion of the accused (16.01%), along with accused persons to whom the victim had got married (12.33%). The accused person was alleged to have been stalking the victim in 7.08% cases, and a relative was the accused in 6.82% cases.

The accused was the teacher/professor of the victim, or the headmaster/principal of the school in which the victim was studying in 5.51% cases. The father/step-father of the victim was the accused in 3.68% cases, and a friend of the victim had allegedly committed a sexual assault against her in 3.16% cases, the report says.

In 108 out of the 509 cases (21.21%) classified as ‘romantic’ in nature, convictions were recorded in six cases (5.55%) of which in three cases the accused was convicted under both the POCSO Act and the IPC, and three were convicted under the IPC only, the study reveals. Marriage between the victim and the accused had taken place in 47 out of 108 cases (43.51%) either before the report was filed, or subsequently.

None of these cases resulted in a conviction, even though, in several cases, the minority of the victim was not in doubt. Incidents of sexual assault were first sought to be resolved with the intervention of village or caste elders, and only when no resolution could be reached was an FIR lodged, the study observes.

Medical evidence was either unavailable, or not referred to at all by the Special Court, in 311 cases (61.10%). Medical evidence was available (or referred to in the judgment) in 30 of the 57 cases (52.63%) which resulted in conviction, either under the IPC or the POCSO Act. Even in cases where medical evidence was available, it was not always relied upon, particularly when the victim and other witnesses of the prosecution turned hostile.

This will appear counter-intuitive, given that medical evidence can be a crucial tool to arrive at a verdict when eye-witnesses turn hostile, and therefore, ought to be given weightage, it underscores.

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 12:25:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/rate-of-acquittal-high-in-pocso-cases-in-state/article21236556.ece

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