Punjab and Haryana HC: DNA Report Alone Cannot Exonerate in POCSO Cases

Mainstream
21-Jun-2024
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The Punjab and Haryana High Court recently emphasized that police cannot cancel a case of penetrative sexual assault under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act solely based on a favorable DNA report for the accused. Justice Harpreet Kaur Jeewan clarified that when a minor victim stands by her testimony under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), a non-matching DNA result does not eliminate the possibility of the offense.


“Keeping in view the elaborate definition of the offense of penetrative sexual assault, non-matching of the DNA of the petitioner-accused with the vaginal swab of the victim and absence of human semen from the vaginal swab of a female victim would not rule out the offense of ‘penetrative sexual assault’ wherein the minor victim had supported her version in a statement recorded under Section 164 Cr.P.C.,” Justice Jeewan stated. The court made this observation while denying anticipatory bail to an accused in a rape case.


The case originated in December 2022 when a 15-year-old girl reported that her 37-year-old neighbor had forcibly taken her to a field and raped her. Despite the police investigation suggesting no link between the accused and the victim and a DNA test exonerating the accused, the court found these grounds insufficient for canceling the case. 


Justice Jeewan noted that the DNA comparison was based on requests from the accused's family, not an independent investigation. “As per the medico-legal report, the victim has given the history of sexual assault at a farmhouse on 04.12.2022. Four vaginal swabs were taken for DNA analysis. The victim has supported her version in the statement recorded under Section 164 Cr.P.C. on 09.12.2022 before the Magistrate,” the court observed.


The court emphasized that the recommendation to cancel the case was misconceived and contrary to the provisions of the POCSO Act. It referred to a Supreme Court ruling, stating that while a positive DNA result is strong evidence, other material evidence must be weighed if the DNA result favors the accused.


“The offense alleged to have been committed by the petitioner is grievous in nature. Under Section 4 of the Act of 2012, a minimum punishment of seven years has been prescribed, which may extend to life imprisonment. Merely, on the ground of the DNA examination report in favor of the petitioner, he is not entitled to pre-arrest bail, especially considering he is a neighbor of the victim, the significant age difference, and the lack of previous enmity between them,” the court concluded.


This ruling underscores the importance of comprehensive evidence evaluation in POCSO cases, asserting that a non-matching DNA result alone does not suffice to dismiss allegations, especially when corroborated by the victim’s testimony and medical evidence.


Author: Anushka Taraniya

News writer