VIJAYAWADA: The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Thursday ruled that if a minor has been a victim of sexual harassment till she attains majority, in such cases, the accused must be tried under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The verdict was delivered on a petition filed by the father of a B.Arch student of Acharya Nagarjuna University who committed suicide allegedly due to sexual harassment by three of her seniors.
The victim was from Warangal and had joined the course on September 7, 2014 when she was still a minor. Her father filed an appeal in the high court after a first additional district sessions judge of a special POCSO court found fault with the police for filing a charge sheet against the accused under the POCSO Act, reasoning that at the time of her suicide, the victim was major. The judge refused to take cognizance of the charge sheet filed by the police. The judge gave his verdict on Jan 7, 2016.
Delivering his judgment on the father’s appeal, Justice C Manavendra Rai directed the special court to resume hearing in the case again and observed that prima facie, it appears that the victim was subjected to sexual harassment. “She was subjected to sexual harassment since she was a minor. The same continued even after she turned 18. If she committed suicide because of sexual harassment, a case must be booked under POCSO Act. It is not correct to claim that the POCSO Act cannot be applied as she was a major at the time of her death. Police were right in filing a charge-sheet under the Act,” the Judge said.
He ruled that the first additional district sessions judge was wrong in rejecting the charge sheet and it was deplorable to further claim that the victim had never complained. The court directed the POCSO special court to take cognizance of the chargesheet and deliver a verdict within six months.
‘POCSO must be applied’
Victim may be a major at the time of her suicide but POCSO Act must be applied as she had been harassed sexually since she was a minor and the same continued after she turned 18