Delayed sexual harassment complaint not a ground to drop prosecution: HC

Kerala High Court. Photo: E V Sreekumar.

Kochi: Delay in lodging complaints in sexual harassment cases should be viewed differently, the High Court of Kerala ruled, adding such cases should not be treated similar to other offences.

Justice Dr Kauser Edappagath said the survivor and her family would have to consider several factors before lodging a complaint. The court was considering an appeal against the Kollam Additional Sessions Court sentencing a man for five years' in prison and slapping Rs 50,000 on him for attempting to sexually assault his daughter.

The court rejected the argument of the petitioner's counsel that the delay in lodging the complaint was suspicious. In a tradition-bound society, the delay in lodging the complaint, especially by those in rural areas, could not be a reason to drop prosecution proceedings. The delay becomes crucial only when a case's credibility is under question, the court reminded.

The Pathanapuram police registered the case after the 17-year-old survivor complained that her father used to peep while she bathed and changed dress. He tried to assault her once while she was sleeping, it was alleged.

The sections under the POCSO Act, too, invoked against the man, the trial court dropped them, and punished him for attempting to outrage the modesty of a woman. Pointing out that the girl had lodged similar complaints earlier, the high court upheld the trial court's ruling that the man was guilty. His prison term, however, was slashed to three years.  

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