Mumbai: The Bombay high court has acquitted a man, who is undergoing a 20-year jail term for allegedly raping a mentally challenged minor girl. While acquitting him, the court held that the accused was a minor at the time of the incident.
Justice A.M. Badar ordered that the accused should be released from jail and his case be presented before the juvenile justice board for appropriate orders in accordance with the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act. The crime happened in 2013 when the convict was 16 years old.
The court was hearing an appeal filed by the man, challenging an August 2016 order of the special Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) court, convicting him, and two others, on charges of gang-rape under Section 376 (D) of the IPC and the POCSO Act.
The court had sentenced the accused persons to 20 years in jail. According to the prosecution, the man, along with two others, raped a mentally challenged minor girl living in their building in suburban Chembur.
The incident came to light when the girl's mother realised that she was pregnant, following which an FIR was lodged.
The man in his appeal claimed that at the time of the incident (March 15, 2013) he was only 16-years-old and was entitled to benefit of provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
Following this claim, the high court had, in March this year, directed the special POCSO court to conduct an enquiry and submit a report.