The Bombay High Court has acquitted a science teacher of charges of raping a student at his house on the ground that the prosecution had failed to establish the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.
Accordingly, the court set aside the 10-year jail term imposed by a sessions court on 28-year-old Dharmaraj Ganpatil, a teacher in a school in Ratnagiri area of Maharashtra.
Hearing an appeal filed by the convict, Justice Sadhana Jadhav recently ordered Ganpatil's release from Kolhapur jail where he is currently lodged.
According to prosecution, the teacher used to coach the victim studying in 10th standard at his house and one day he expressed his love for her. She refused his offer, saying it was not befitting him. The victim did not inform her family but continued to visit the teacher's home for tuitions.
The teacher repeated his offers of love but she refused. He even threatened her that her marks would be cut if she did not relent. One day he forced the victim to a room and ravished her. Thereafter he repeatedly molested her, according to the prosecution.
The girl conceived and her parents took her to a doctor who examined her and found that she was eight months pregnant. Finally, in 1996, she delivered a baby who eventually died two weeks after birth.
It is the case of the prosecution that the prosecutrix (victim) or her parents had not approached the police station. However, an anonymous letter was received by police on the basis of which her statement was recorded on August 4, 1996.
She had disclosed in her statement that she had no intention to lodge a report against the accused, Dharmaraj Ganpatil. She further stated that someone had written an anonymous letter to police only to tarnish the image of her family and herself.
She had further stated that she does not wish to prosecute the matter or lodge a formal complaint to the police as she does not feel it necessary to do so. She admitted in her statement that she was responsible for the said incident and that she intended to lead a peaceful life in future.
The victim was a bright student and always stood first or second in class. She used to regularly go to the teacher's house for studies even after the incident.
"It is clear that the prosecutrix was passing through an adolescent stage and she must have been infatuated by the teacher. The very fact that she was a meritorious student she had no reason to worry about the danger of the teacher's threat of being given less marks," the judge observed.
"In any case, it would be incumbent upon prosecution to establish that the appellant had ravished her sometime in October 1995. There is no medical evidence. There was no DNA test and more important fact is that the proseutrix had stated that she had no allegation against the appellant as she holds herself responsible for the incident," the judge remarked.
The court noted that the victim had scribbled the name of the accused on a piece of paper when her mother asked about the person who was the father of the child born to her.
The court also noted that the victim was between 17 and 19 years of age according to medical reports, while the definition of rape in IPC says that a man can be accused of rape when he has sexual intercourse with a woman with or without her consent who is under 16 years of age.
"The Radioglogical examination cannot be faulted which says that she may be above 17 years and below 19. There is a margin of two years on either side. Although according to the prosecution it is a case of statutory rape and the appellant is said to have taken undue advantage of his position, the fact that the prosecutrix has taken the entire blame upon herself may speak volumes for itself," the Judge noted.
There was no complaint against the appellant by anybody and hence it can be inferred that the prosecution has failed to establish the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. In this case, the anonymous letter is not on record nor it was filed along with the chargesheet, the Judge said.
Moreover, the paper on which the prosecutrix had scribbled the name of the appellant is also not placed on record and therefore except the deposition of the prosecutrix that she was ravished against her will, nothing is on record.
The appellant would therefore be entitled to the benefit of margin in respect of statutory rape, the Judge held.