Apart from initiating suo motu bail cancellation case, the sensitization of POCSO court judges in Nagaland, Mizoram, and Arunachal Pradesh.
Five months after a hostel warden accused of raping 21 students under the age of 12 was released on bail, the Guhati High Court on Friday initiated Suo motu bail cancellation proceedings in the matter [XXX v. In Re State of Arunachal Pradesh and 2 ors.]
The Court initiated the case based on news article published in two newspaper, Purvanchal Prahari and The Arunachal Times, regarding grant of bail to the accused Yumken Bagra, Hostel Warden of the Government Residential School at Karo Village in Monigong in Shi Yomi district of Arunachal Pradesh.
Chief Justice Sandeep Mehta expressed shock over the caviler fashion in which the special judge hearing the case under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act) had granted bail to the accused on February 23.
“The conscience of the Court has been shaken by the way in which a case of such grave magnitude and sensitive nature has been dealt with in an absolutely cavalier fashion by granting bail to the main accused without assigning any plausible reasons. The larger the issue which bothers the mind of the Court is regarding safety of the victims of the ghastly act of sexual assault after the release of the accused on bail,” stated Chief Justice Mehta’s order.
The matter also prompted the High Court to opine that there was a need to sensitise trial courts, particularly courts dealing with POCSO offences.
Chief Justice Mehta, therefore, ordered the Director of the Assam Judicial Academy to initiate a training sensitisation programme for all judicial officers dealing with POCSO cases in Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.
The Chief Justice further directed the Advocate General to inform the Court about the steps taken by the State of Arunachal Pradesh to give protection to minor victims of sexual assault across the State.
The accused is alleged to have sexually assaulted 15 girls and 6 boys between 2019 to 2022.
He was granted bail after the trial in the case was stalled because a co-accused, Daniel Pertin, remained absconding. The Chief Justice, however, pointed out that the trial of the hostel warden could have been continued without waiting for the co-accused to be found, by separating their trials.
Chief Justice Mehta further found that Bagra was granted bail without hearing the informant in the case.
“Since the offence under Section 376AB of the IPC has also been applied in the case, by virtue of Section 439(1A) of the Cr.PC it is mandatory to ensure presence of the informant or any person authorized by him at the time of hearing of the application for bail,” the Chief Justice observed.
He proceeded to criticise the POCSO court for not giving due consideration to substantial objections registered by the Special Public Prosecutor and granting bail to the accused “in an absolutely casual manner.”
The High Court also noted that the bail order was given despite the special court’s observation that the statements of the victims revealed that a grave offence had been committed.
“Absolutely flimsy reasons were assigned by the Special Court for granting bail to the accused,” the High Court said.
The Chief Justice underscored that being a warden, the accused had been entrusted with the duty of ensuring the safety of children lodged in the hostel. However, Bagra appeared to have instead “acted in a demonic manner” and exposed the children to pornographic material, before committing the dastardly act, the Court said.
The High Court, therefore, sought the response of the accused and the Arunachal Pradesh government in the matter and posted the case for further hearing on July 27.
Meanwhile the Court ordered that full security measures be put in place for all minor survivors and their family members under the Witness Protection Scheme.
The Court also directed that the family members of the victims be informed of the bail cancellation proceedings, so that they may make submissions before the Court if they wished to be heard.
Senior Advocate TJ Mahanta with advocate T Gogoi represented the Gauhati High Court.
Arunachal Pradesh Advocate General I Chowdhury and Additional Advocate General NNB Choudhury represented the State government.
Source: Bar & Bench