Purpose of rehabilitative sentencing is to reform offender as a law abiding citizen: HC grants bail to 20-year-old boy in POCSO case


A single judge Bench consisting of Justice Smt. Bharati Dangre of Bombay High Court, in the case of Shubham Suresh Thorat v. State Of Maharashtra (dt. 22.12.2020), granted bail to a 20-year-old boy accused under the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) observing that: purpose of rehabilitative sentencing is to reform the offender as a person so that he may become a normal law abiding member of the community once again and is given an opportunity to once again come back to the mainstream life.

Factual Background

The offence against accused was registered on complaint of mother of the victim boy. She reported that Applicant asked her son to accompany him (Applicant) to his house and when he went to his house, he locked the door from inside and he was made to sleep on the coat and remove his clothes.

When he asked the Applicant, the reason, he gave blows on his back and ribs and attempted to have carnal intercourse with him and when he raised an alarm, the Applicant pressed his mouth and once again attempted to commit the unnatural act. When he felt dizzy because of the act, he was asked to wear the clothes and threatened that if he report about the incident to anyone, he would be killed. This resulted in registration of an offence u/s 377 of the IPC apart from the relevant Sections of POCSO Act.

On completion of investigation, charge-sheet was filed. The victim boy was subjected to medical examination. The examination of the private parts revealed that there is tear over anus at 6 O’ clock position, reddish without bleeding.

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Applicant’s medical examination was conducted & he was referred to Psychiatric Expert, who reported- no active psycho-pathology or no active psycho-sexual dysfunction. The final opinion was expressed that there was nothing to suggest that he was not capable of performing sexual intercourse. 

The charge-sheet contained witnesses’ statements who reported the narration of the victim boy. His own statement was recorded and there were no contradictions between narrations of Victim and his mother (while lodging complaint). 

Addl. Sessions Judge, examined material placed in charge-sheet- while considering the application and after relying on doctor opinion on victim examination reflecting the tear, his application came was rejected on account of the gravity of the offence and also the possibility of tampering of the prosecution evidence.

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Applicant thus approached high court seeking grant of his release.

Reasoning and Decision of the Court

The Court noted that the prosecution collated all the necessary material in the charge-sheet to establish the charge u/s 377 of the IPC and the Applicant would be tried with said material. The allegations against the him were undisputedly serious in nature and he will face the penalty, if convicted. He was incarcerated since February, 2020. Considering Applicant age (aged 20) with the antecedents which have been reported and which reflect that he is already in conflict with law, the Court called for a report from Yerwada Central Prison.

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The report concluded that Applicant’s behaviour in jail since date of his incarceration was satisfactory. He was also subjected to psychological assessment and was screened for psychiatric disturbance. It was reported that there was no psychological disturbance/ any psychiatric illness and on his examination he was found to be co-operative and communicative. His thoughts were coherent and no abnormality was reported. The Applicant’s behaviour and mental condition was found to be stable.

Observations with respect to Applicant’s Age

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Court observed that:

“Apart from the seriousness of the accusation, his impressionable age will also have to be taken into consideration while dealing with his bail application. He is reported to have indulged in the past, when he was juvenile in offences invoking Sections 323 and 324, 504, 506 of the IPC. Barely attaining the majority, in the year 2018, he is involved in two offencesone invoking IPC Sections 323, 324, 504 and 506 with Arms Act and another offence invoking Sections 354354A(1) of the IPC. Chapter proceedings were also initiated against the Applicant.

Observations with respect to rehabilitative sentencing

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Showing its concern over what could make a young boy turn into a criminal, Court observed:

What makes a young boy turn to crime is a matter of indepth study. Factors like peer pressure, poor education, poor socioeconomic status and neglectful childhood may be some factors. Though no crime can be justified on the ground that the circumstances around him makes a person criminal since punishment is the coercion used to enforce the law and it is one of the pillars of modern civilization.

Providing a peaceful society life is the duty of a State. Lack of punishment causes the law to lose its face and may result in a lawless society. However the reformative approach to curb crimes and reform the convicts has come up in order to protect the basic rights, a human is entitled to. Across the globe, rehabilitation seeks to bring about fundamental changes in offenders and their behaviour. It generally works through education and psychological transformation to reduce the likelihood of future criminality."

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Further, reflecting on the purpose of reformative sentencing, Court stated:

“The purpose of reformative theory also known as rehabilitative sentencing is to reform the offender as a person so that he may become a normal law abiding member of the community once again. The theory of reformation, which is invoked at times on the global front, is not the one which should only be tested at the time when a person is convicted, at the time of commuting of sentence. Here is a young boy aged 20 years, who is already in conflict with law and as the learned counsel has argued, his long incarceration may turn him into a hardened criminal and the apprehension cannot be said to unfounded. However, at the same time for commission of the alleged acts which are legally prohibited, he will have to be punished.”  

Court also stated that Applicant was barely 20 years old and deserved a chance for reformation though the offence with which he was charged could not be wiped out and, on conviction, he should suffer the penalty prescribed. However, he deserved one chance of being out of prison to face the trial but also to start his life afresh awaiting his trial. This opportunity would determine whether he repents over his past alleged conduct or whether he continues to follow his antecedents.

“In my considered opinion, he deserves to be released on interim bail. This will be, however, coupled with an additional stipulation that he will continue to undergo the counseling at the hands of Clinical Psychologists and this should be catered to by the Sassoon General Hospital, Pune. The Dean of the Sassoon General Hospital is requested to open a file in the name of the Applicant with Sassoon Hospital and entrust the Applicant to a Clinical Psychologist and a Psychiatrist from the said Hospital. The Applicant will report to them once in every month as per the availability of the concerned Psychiatrist and Psychologist.

The record of the psychiatric assessment and the counseling given to the Applicant should be maintained and when the Applicant marks his attendance once in two months before the Trial Court, he would tender the said reports in the Trial Court. It is to be mentioned that the release of the Applicant is in the form of an experiment to work out on the reformation of a young accused person, awaiting trial expecting that the Applicant will not indulge himself further any unlawful act."

This was conditioned on the further conduct of the Applicant. Prosecution was granted liberty to move for cancellation of the protection on noticing any criminal indulgence on the part of the Applicant.

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Applicant was interim bail granted bail.

Case Name: Shubham Suresh Thorat v. The State Of Maharashtra

Bench: Justice Smt. Bharati Dangre of Bombay High Court  

Case No.: Criminal Bail Application (ST) No. 3242 of 2020

Date of Decision: 22 December 2020

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