A Special Court under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) recently acquitted a man accused of raping a woman after the woman stated that she did not wish to proceed against the accused (State of Maharashtra v. Jacob Muthuswami Naidu).
Special Judge HC Shende at Dindoshi, Mumbai opined that in a case of rape or sexual assault, the victim is the star witness for the prosecution as her sole testimony can be relied upon to convict the accused if it is trustworthy".
If the victim is not supporting the prosecution's story of the accused having committed rape on her "then it would be unsafe and unjust rather illegal to say that the accused is guilty of committing rape or penetrative sexual assault on the victim girl.
The Court observed that in the present case, because of the non-supportive attitude" of the prosecution witnesses (the victim and her mother), the case of protection had collapsed, its backbone had cracked down and nothing came on record to prove the guilt of the accused.
The Special Judge, therefore, proceeded to acquit the accused of offenses under Section 376 (2) (rape) of the Indian Penal Code and offenses under the POCSO Act.
He also directed the prosecution to take legal steps against the witness who according to the prosecution, has not supported their case.
The case was that the 17-year-old minor had met the accused in January 2019 and after a few meetings were invited to the residence of the accused who proposed to her. The couple later developed a physical relationship.
In March 2019, the victim missed her menses.
However, she suspected that it was due to the fact that she was suffering from jaundice and did not take any action. Later, in June 2019 she discovered that she was 24 weeks pregnant.
The victim's mother registered a complaint at the Santacruz Police Station.
During the trial, the accused, Jacob Naidu, denied all charges against him. He contended that he had been falsely implicated out of a misunderstanding between the two and submitted that he and the victim were married to each other and were happily residing with their daughter.
The victim also submitted that she had never gone to the police station to lodge the complaint. She testified that she had married Naidu in October 2019 and they had a daughter. She clearly stated that she had no grievance against Naidu and did not wish to proceed with the case against him. Following this, her mother also withdrew her support to the case. Regarding the age of the victim, the prosecution produced a birth certificate but the Court observed that since it was not supported by evidence of the star witnesses, it cannot be said that it is full proof evidence to hold that the victim was a minor at the relevant time.
The Court, therefore, concluded that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the victim was a minor at the time of the crime and hence, the offenses under the POCSO Act could not be invoked.
The Court ordered while acquitting the accused said that the prosecution is directed to take legal steps against the witness who according to the prosecution, has not supported the prosecution case.