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HC dismisses State's plea against school van driver's acquittal in sexual assault case

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New Delhi, Jan 29 (PTI) The Delhi High Court has dismissed a plea by the State challenging the acquittal of a school van driver against charges of sexually assaulting two girl children.

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A bench of Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Manoj Jain took into consideration the testimony of the victims -- both aged between three and four years --, which, it said, does not indicate any sort of penetrative or aggravated sexual assault.

"… keeping in mind the testimony of both the victims, we are of the considered view that the State has not been able to make out a case compelling us to grant them leave to appeal," the bench said.

It declined to grant leave to appeal to the state and dismissed the petition.

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Leave to appeal is a formal permission granted by a court to a party to challenge a decision in a higher court.

The State had challenged a trial court's verdict acquitting the van driver of charges of sexual assault, molestation, and criminal intimidation.

The man's counsel contended that the trial court's order does not suffer from any infirmity and it had rightly acquitted him after due appreciation of testimony of both the victims.

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According to the prosecution, the accused was the driver of a school van and both the minor girls used to go to school in the van driven by him and there were allegations that he had sexually assaulted both of them.

The minors had earlier said that the man had sexually assaulted them in the school.

The high court noted that when the matter was first reported to the police, grave allegations were made against the driver and both girls had also made statements under Section 164 (statement recorded in-camera before a magistrate) of the CrPC indicting him after which he was charged for the offence.

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It said the statements made by them under section 164 of the CrPC were clearly suggestive of rape and aggravated penetrative assault and of aggravated sexual assault but nothing of that kind stood proved when they entered into witness box and deposed before the court.

"We have gone through the testimony of both the victims and it is quite obvious that they both have diluted the nature of allegations to a very large and substantial extent," the high court said.

The trial court, in its order, had concluded that the minors were unreliable witnesses and keeping in mind their tender age, the possibility of tutoring could not have been ruled out.

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It had also taken note of the fact that the accused was a school cab driver and quite possibly, he might have touched them while making them sit in the cab or helping them de-board it.

The high court said the victims were not the only children who were travelling in the van driven by the accused, but surprisingly, no other school child or employee or teacher was examined or arrayed as witness.

"This assumes importance as the incident had taken place in the school. Moreover, it is not a case where the court is having any benefit of medical or scientific evidence.

"Thus, keeping in mind the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case, the trial court was of the view that the victims could not be treated as sterling witnesses and resultantly granted benefit of doubt to the accused," the bench said.

It added that it does not find any compelling reason to take a different view from that of the trial court. PTI SKV SKV VN VN

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