This article on ‘POCSO Victim Age: Supreme Court’s Ruling on School Transfer Certificates (P Yuvaprakash V State Rep by Inspector of Police)‘ was written by Diya Saraswat, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
Sexual abuse is a heinous crime that strikes at the root of humanity in every society. The POCSO Act (Protection of children from sexual offences act) provides a stringent punishment to such offenders. This legislation was enacted when the Convention on the Rights of Child was not able to fill the gaps in the redressal of cases of sexual abuse in India.
The Supreme Court gave a landmark judgment in the case of P Yuvaprakash V State Rep by Inspector of Police in which it held that a School Transfer Certificate Cannot Be Relied Upon to Determine the POCSO Victim Age. A school transfer certificate is an official document that is issued when a student graduates or leaves the school.
The honourable Supreme Court in the abovementioned case has finally taken the long-awaited stand for the minor victims of sexual abuse. According to Equality Now, there were 32,033 rape cases reported in India in 2019. Sexual violence is deeply rooted in chauvinist and patriarchal notions. This article deals with the latest decision of the apex court stating that the School transfer certificate can’t determine age under the Protection of Children from Sexual offences Act, 2012.
Facts of the case
It all began in 2015 when a minor girl was kidnapped by the accused and his aides and was subjected to continuous sexual assault and was forcibly married off too ( abetting her unlawful marriage ). The girl had told in her testimony to the Magistrate that she had run away with her lover and it was a voluntary act. No one had forced her. However, she retracted her statement afterwards.
The trial court had convicted the accused under Section 366 of IPC (Kidnapping, abducting or inducing a woman in order to compel her for marriage) and under the POCSO Act for subjecting the minor girl to sexual abuse repeatedly.
The trial court also gave him life imprisonment. The accused appealed in Madras High Court. The prosecution had provided a school transfer certificate in order to prove the POCSO Victim Age.
The High Court upheld the conviction under POCSO but set aside his conviction under section 366 as there was no concrete evidence of kidnapping the girl in order to compel her for marriage. The HC also modified life imprisonment into rigorous imprisonment for 10 years. The matter further went in front of the honourable Supreme Court.
Issues involved in the case
- Whether the accused should be convicted under POCSO Act?
- Whether school transfer certificate can be relied upon to prove the POCSO Victim Age?
- If not school transfer certificates, then what other documents should be relied upon?
Laws involved in the POCSO Victim Age Case
- Section 94 of the Juvenile Justice ( Care and Protection ) Act, 2015
- (POCSO) Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012
- Section 366 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
The division bench very articulately while dealing with the first issue held that the accused cannot be convicted under the POCSO Act and acquitted the accused of all charges. The Apex court gave comprehensive reasoning behind the judgment. The answer to this is connected to the answer to the second issue regarding which the court held that TC certificates cannot be relied upon.
The court gave a reference to Section 94 of the JJ Act. Section 94 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015 provides that in order to prove the age of the victim to be covered under the POCSO Act, 2012 it is essential to provide:
- Birth certificate from school, matriculation from the examination board.
- In the absence of a birth certificate from school, a birth certificate from the concerned municipality Panchayat or corporation must be provided.
- In the absence of these two documents, a medical examination must be relied upon in order to prove the POCSO Victim Age.
Relying on this interpretation of the section, the court held that the trial court had erred in relying on merely a school transfer certificate which does not provide concrete evidence of the age of the victim of sexual abuse. The court answered the second issue while holding that school transfer certificates are not reasonable evidence to be relied upon. The High Court had also erred in failing to consider the medical examination results provided by the doctor which went on to prove that the girl was 19 years of age at the time of the sexual assault.
Henceforth, the victim will not fall under the POSCO Act and the accused cannot be convicted. The apex court also stated that the prosecution failed to provide concrete evidence which could point to a forced sexual assault. The court stated that the act falls under the ambit of the POCSO Act only when penetrative sexual assault takes place. There was an absence of an external injury and the trial court had also erred in not conducting a proper cross–examination of the witnesses.
Sexual abuse is a brutal crime that occurs as a confluence of a lot of factors which are individual, psychological, environmental, institutional, and social. The murkiness of Indian Laws is as such that it sometimes fails to catch and convict the perpetrator. Legislations such as POCSO and JJ Act strike at the root of the crime. Victims of such abuse are advised to contact 1098 which is a 24-hour operating child helpline. The judgment in the case of P Yuvaprakash V State Rep by Inspector of Police is a significant ruling which seeks to prevent unjust convictions of the accused in cases of sexual abuse.
Cases that fall under POCSO are very critical in nature and must be dealt with accordingly. The court while holding that school transfer or TC certificates are not concrete evidence of the age of the victim of sexual abuse under the POCSO act has added another important precedent in the books of the Indian judicial system.
This is a landmark judgment in which the court gave a comprehensive list of documents that must be relied upon in order to prove the POCSO Victim Age for him or her to fall under the POCSO Act. The judgment was delivered on 18th July 2023 and goes on to show the progressive mindset of the Indian judiciary.
- Abhimanyu Hazarika, “School Transfer certificate cannot be relied upon to determine age under Juvenile Justice Act: Supreme Court”, 19 July 2023, available at: https://www.barandbench.com/news/litigation/school-transfer-certificate-cannot-relied-determine-age-juvenile-justice-act-supreme-court
- “School Transfer Certificate Cannot Be Relied Upon To Determine Age Under Juvenile Justice Act: Supreme Court”, Law Updates, 19 July 2023, available at: https://lawupdates.in/school-transfer-certificate-cannot-be-relied-upon-to-determine-age-under-juvenile-justice-act-supreme-court/
- Ritika Sharma, “POCSO Act : everything you need to know”, iPleaders Blog, 13 May 2022, available at: https://blog.ipleaders.in/pocso-act-everything-you-need-to-know/