A Mangaluru court recently ordered two police sub-inspectors — both women — to pay a man a compensation of ₹5 lakh after he spent around a year in prison, having been wrongly accused under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act of 2012.
This happened after the court learnt that the two Women Police Sub-Inspectors (WPSIs) had implicated the person just because his name matched that of the real offender.
The court of the Additional District & Sessions Judge/FTSC-II (POCSO), Dakshina Kannada, in Mangaluru pronounced its judgement on 29 November, acquitting the implicated innocent 46-year-old man of all charges.
Meanwhile, WPSIs Rosamma and Revathi, attached with the Mangaluru Women Police Station, have two months to pay ₹5 lakh as compensation to Praveen (name changed).
The court also ordered senior police officials to inquire into the initial stages of the case and take action on the officials, keeping the court in the loop.
“If the two policewomen do not pay up the said compensation in two months, the court will find ways to get the money deducted from their salaries and offer it to the implicated individual,” said a senior advocate.
Family approaches cops
A woman and her son, in late 2021 approached the Mangaluru Women’s Police Station and filed a complaint that her 16-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted on more than three occasions by one of his friends when she was alone at home.
According to the victim and her family, who are all residents of Vamanjoor, offences by the accused started on 19 March, 2020.
However, she finally chose to report it on 4 November, 2021, when she was made to consume a juice laced with sedatives after which the accused sexually exploited her.
The victim filed a formal complaint with the police against one of her brother’s friends.
The cops arrested an individual — who they said was the accused — on 6 November, 2021, and booked him under Sections 376 (rape), 354 (sexual harassment), 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC and Sections 4, 8, and 12 of the POCSO Act.
He was sent to judicial custody. The trial commenced only on 9 September this year after the police station staff filed a charge sheet.
The arrested individual was charge-sheeted by WPSIs Rosamma and Revathi based on the complaint of the minor girl.
She alleged that when she was alone in her house on her birthday in March 2020, the accused came there and — being known to her — demanded a birthday party. According to him, this “party” was she establishing a physical relationship with him, but the teen refused.
She said that on a later occasion, when she was once again alone at her house, the accused came and kissed her.
On 4 November, 2021, she was alone at home once again when the accused came and gave her a juice laced with sedatives. After drinking the juice, when the victim fell to the floor due to drowsiness, the accused allegedly sexually assaulted her.
When she resisted, the accused silenced her and threatened her with dire consequences.
It was after this that the teen and her family approached the police.
She was taken for a medical examination at the Lady Goschen Hospital in Mangaluru, where the doctors confirmed that she had been sexually assaulted.
What could have gone wrong?
As the trial concluded on 24 November, 2022, the court learnt that the investigating officers had implicated an innocent man with the same name as that of the accused and charge-sheeted him by mentioning an incorrect age for him.
So, how did it happen?
Senior practising criminal advocate Trivikram told South First that on one hand, this could have been done deliberately by the police for wrongful gain or gratification.
However, there was also the possibility that the police could have done it to take some sort of vengeance on someone and/or at the behest of the accused or in total ignorance and all facts of the case.
This, he said, would run counter to the criminal jurisprudence and would cause a miscarriage of justice.
“According to the Supreme Court guidelines, a Test Identification Parade (TIP) is only mandatory in a case where the accused is not known to the victim. TIPs basically happen in cases of dacoity or sexual assault by unknown persons,” Trivikram told South First.
“However, in this case, the cops recorded the statement of the victim that the accused was one of her brother’s friends. There was no TIP in this case and a person with the same name as the accused was implicated in the case,” he explained.
According to the judgement order, the victim’s brother and the real accused were known to each other as both of them worked at the Ullas Bar and Restaurant in Kalkamba.
“It could also be possible that the brother knew two people with the same name,” Trivikram told South First.
He also pointed out: “In the instant case, the victim and her family members did not identify or recognise the arrested person as the accused. This finding has been recorded in the judgement by the judge. Further, the victim admitted during cross-examination that she had never seen the arrested person before. Even her brother and mother deposed before the court in the same fashion,” Trivikram pointed out.
The judge observed that not only the arrested person but also his aged mother — who was dependent on him — might have experienced untold suffering, injustice, humiliation, outcasting, and social boycott. And this, the judge noted, could not be made up for in any way.
The court then ordered the two policewomen to pay the wrongfully arrested and charge-sheeted individual ₹5 lakh compensation out of their own pockets within two months, which is a matter of absolute necessity.