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In POCSO case, TN custom trumps over law: SC sets aside conviction of man accused of raping minor niece

By Krishnadas Rajagopal

The Supreme Court has politely refused to “disturb” the “marriage” and “happy family life” of a convicted rapist and his minor niece in Tamil Nadu by sending him to jail for his crime under the Protection of Children Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

The custom of avunculate marriage between maternal uncles and nieces in Tamil Nadu triumphed over the strict provisions of the POCSO Act when a Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao spared the man who raped his 14-year-old relative and then “married” her.

The case against the man was he had physical relations with the girl when she was 14 on the promise of marrying her. He eventually married her. She had her first child at the age of 15 and the second at 17.

He was convicted and sentenced to 10 years' rigorous imprisonment by the Sessions Court in 2018. The Madras High Court upheld the conviction the next year. Following this, the man, a woodcutter and a member of the backward Valayar community, moved the Supreme Court for relief.

During the hearing of the appeal, the Supreme Court asked the District Judge to record the statement of the girl about her present status. In her statement, she stated that she was leading a "happy married life" with two children.

The State of Tamil Nadu, represented by advocate Joseph S. Aristotle, however, raised strong objections against letting the man go scot-free just because he chose to marry her.

Mr. Aristotle argued that the marriage was not legal. She was a minor at the time of birth of both children. There was no guarantee that the man would continue to take care of the girl and the children once he was off the hook.

However, the court said it just "cannot shut its eyes to the ground reality and disturb the happy family life of the appellant and the prosecutrix".

"We have been informed about the custom in Tamil Nadu of the marriage of a girl with the maternal uncle... For these reasons, the conviction and sentence of the appellant is set aside in the peculiar facts of the case and shall not be treated as a precedent," the Supreme Court held in a recent order.

Adding a note of precaution, the court said the prosecutrix (girl) or the State, on her behalf, could move the Supreme Court for modification of this order if ever the man stopped taking care of her.

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Dive Deeper:
Woman's vile plot to charge for child abuse to raise money for a house with cellar
Vicki Bevan, Paul Rafferty and Tony Hutton, raped and abused a young girl
Sick woman wanted to 'eat children' after sexually abusing them with two men
Vicki Bevan, Paul Rafferty and Tony Hutton acted out their disgusting sexual fantasies on a little girl
High-profile prisoners who have married behind bars as serial killer Levi Bellfield asks to wed
Former justice secretary says it ‘cannot be right’ that Milly Dowler’s killer should get to marry
‘Depraved’ woman jailed for life after raping young girl and sharing photos online
Vicki Bevan said she wanted to ‘kidnap, rape, torture, kill and then eat children’. Asked online if she had any…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Short Circuit: A Roundup of Recent Federal Court Decisions
Plasma, prisons, and political parties
Can you get married in prison in the UK? Levi Bellfield applied to marry in Durham jail
Milly Dowler Bellfield has requested to get married whilst serving his prison sentence.
Get all your news in one place