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APR 2018
INDIA

Reversal of acquittal in a child sexual assault case

In January 2017, a trial court in Delhi, contrary to the evidence on record, acquitted the accused in a child sexual abuse case. The survivor Vinita* was 9-year-old at the time the crime was committed.

On a fateful December night in 2010, the accused kidnapped Vinita* from outside her house. She had gone to attend natures call with her younger sister when the accused who was passing by the area targeted her. He offered the child biscuits and took her with him towards the jungle. Reaching an isolated spot, he threatened that he would kill her if she did not listen to him. When Vinita tried to resist and run away, he overpowered her and sexually assaulted her. Vinita’s sister in the meantime, ran back home and informed her family. Her family and neighbours apprehended the accused shortly afterwards.

Vinita is 15-years-old now and despite the traumatic incident remained strong and never stopped going to school. She comes from a low-income family: her father works in a parking lot and her mother is a housewife. She and her family waited six long years for justice but the trial court, disregarding Vinita’s testimony and the forensic evidence, acquitted the accused stating that the prosecution had failed to establish the age of the child at the time the crime was committed.

The case was referred to iProbono in 2017 to challenge the order of acquittal before the High Court. Supriya Juneja, iProbono’s panel lawyer, filed an appeal in the Delhi High Court against the wrongful acquittal of the accused. Supriya argued that the trial court judge failed to consider that the sole testimony of the child is sufficient to convict an accused.

She submitted that the court made a mistake by dismissing forensic evidence, specifically the FSL report stating that the DNA of the accused was found on the child’s clothes.

As a result of our appeal and the State’s appeal, the Delhi High Court reversed the trial court’s decision and the accused was convicted and sentenced to 10 years rigorous imprisonment. While passing the judgement, the High Court remarked that the approach of the trial court was “extremely casual” and went on to hold that “on the basis of the material available on record, we are of the considered opinion that the prosecution has successfully proved the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt."

The perpetrator was further fined Rs. 25,000, which will be disbursed to the child. The court has also directed the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) to compensate the child under the the Delhi Victim Compensation Scheme 2015.

iProbono will continue to represent Vinita to ensure that she receives adequate compensation in a timely manner.

*name changed to protect identity.