In a recent case, the Delhi High Court convicted and sentenced a minor boy on the charges of raping a sixteen- year old girl thereby attracting the relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 and the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012.

In the case of Manoj v. State, the Appellant must have been barely seventeen years old at the time when the offence took place. However, neither in the Trial Court, nor before this Hon’ble Court did he take the plea of being a minor.

Due to the absence of any pleading contending minority on the part of the Appellant, the Trial Court had found him guilty and awarded him with a punishment of ten years of imprisonment.

However, during the Appeal, in light of the fact of the Appellant being a minor at the time of the commission of the crime, the Court modified the sentence to seven years of rigorous punishment instead of the ten years as awarded by the Trial Court.

The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 considers rape as a ‘heinous punishment’ punishable with seven years of rigorous punishment. In accordance with this Act, when such heinous offences are committed by children above the age of sixteen years as on the date of the commission of the offence, a Juvenile Justice Board is supposed to conduct preliminary assessment of the child in question, pertaining to his mental and physical capacity of being able to commit an offence of such nature and the ability of the child to comprehend the consequences of the offence that have allegedly been committed by him. If the findings of the Board are such that it requires for the child to be tried as an adult, then he is tried in the Children’s Court.

During the analysis of the details of the case and the evidence brought to light, it was observed that the Prosecution’s case was not entirely reliable. It was found that the testimony of the prosecutrix was not rock solid and there was no evidence as such of her having suffered any physical injury during the incident. But, since she was a minor, her consent was, in any case, immaterial and the accused was held to be without a doubt, guilty of rape.

The Court held that the fact that whether the Prosecutrix was a minor at the time of the incidence, or if the Appellant had sexual intercourse with her, resulting in her getting pregnant was never in question. Therefore, it was clearly established that the Appellant was guilty of the offence under 376 of IPC. In addition to this, the Court also held that taking into consideration the facts of the case along with the age of the Appellant added together with the fact that he had no previous criminal records, the Court considered it appropriate to award him the minimum sentence. As a consequence, Justice Vibhu Bakhru sentenced him to undergo seven years of imprisonment which is the minimum punishment stipulated under IPC and POCSO.

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Link to judgment: Manoj v. State