Read Judgement: S.Jayaseelan v. The State represented by The Inspector of Police 

Pankaj Bajpai

Chennai, July 20, 2021: The Madras High Court has upheld the conviction of a pastor under the POCSO Act for the sexual assault of a twelve-year-old student of the CSI Hobert Girls Higher Secondary School, housed within the same campus as the residence of the accused pastor.

Justice P Velmurugan also observed that female students are often afraid to come forward with complaints of sexual assault against teachers or the management of the schools they study in, fearing that it may affect their future studies. 

Hence, the High Court recommended to the Government of Tamil Nadu to form a committee at every school — consisting of the Social Welfare Officer, the Secretary of District Legal Services Authorities, female Police Official not below the rank of District Superintendent of Police, District Educational Officer, female Psychiatrist and Physician from the Government Hospital — to deal with possible cases of sexual assault of students. 

The High Court also directed the District Educational Officer to inspect the School once in a month to get grievance of the female students with regard to sexual assault and give confidence to the female children to come forward to make complaint against the sexual offenders, who may be a teaching or non-teaching staff and also the members of the management of the school. 

The Bench also observed that a complaint box should be kept at every school for the victims to freely complain about sexual assaults and keys of the same should be under the control of the Secretary District Legal Services Authority. 

“The Secretary, District Legal Services Authorities are directed to inspect the complaint box along with the District Social Welfare Officer once in a week and enquire into the same, if prima facie reveals any sexual offence, forward the same to the Station House Officers concerned to proceed further,” added the Bench. 

These directions were issued while dismissing an appeal moved by a pastor of a CSI Church, who had been sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment in 2019 under sections 9 and 10 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, for sexually assaulting a twelve-year-old student.

Going by the background of the case, the appellant had allegedly lured the victim, a class eight student, to his residence while she was on her way to the school, under the pretext of telling her a story about Jesus. However, on being sexually assaulted, the child narrated the whole incident to her friend once she reached school. Later on, after getting informed, the grandmother and the girl’s parents filed a police complaint. 

The pastor (appellant) however denied the allegations contending that he was not in his residence at the time of the alleged incident. Such contentions came to be supported by his wife and son during the trial. Citing some enmity stemming from Church elections, the appellant contended that he was falsely implicated in the case.

The High Court, however, noted that the appellant had failed to examine any of the independent witnesses to prove his defence of alibi and the alleged enmity. At the same time, the prosecution’s case stood corroborated by the testimonies of the victim’s classmate, her grandmother and her parents. 

While noting that the instant case was not of a penetrative sexual assault, the Bench observed that absence of medical examination of the victim would not be fatal to the prosecution’s case. 

Justice Velmurugan therefore concluded that the prosecution had proved its case, whereas the appellant had not rebutted the presumption of guilt u/s 29 of the POCSO Act, thus, rendering the appellant liable for punishment u/s 10 of the POCSO Act. 

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