Karnataka High Court Refuses to Quash FIR Against Gynaecologist for Failure to Report Sexual Assault on Minor

In a significant decision, the Karnataka High Court has rejected a petition by a gynaecologist seeking to quash a case registered against him under Section 21 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act for failure to report a sexual assault on a minor.

Under Section 19 of the POCSO Act, it is mandatory for any person who becomes aware of a sexual assault on a minor to report it to the Special Juvenile Police Unit or the local police. Failure to do so is punishable under Section 21, with a penalty of six months’ imprisonment.

The petitioner in this case was accused of terminating the pregnancy of the minor victim without reporting the incident to the police. In response, Justice M Nagaprasanna, sitting as a single judge, remarked that the severity of the punishment should not exempt the petitioner from responsibility. The judge emphasized that as an experienced gynaecologist with almost forty years of service, the petitioner should have been cautious and promptly informed the authorities, as required under Section 19 of the Act. The failure to do so, the court stated, amounted to a serious dereliction of duty.

The petitioner operates a hospital in Chikkamagaluru, where the victim sought medical treatment. Accompanied by her companions, the victim informed the petitioner that she had taken abortion pills a few days earlier, resulting in severe bleeding. Consequently, the petitioner performed a medical termination of pregnancy. The victim was discharged and taken away by individuals claiming to be her relatives. The crime was reported approximately one month later.

Initially, the petitioner was not named as an accused in the case. However, after further investigation, the petitioner was charged under Section 21 of the Act for failing to report the incident. Following notice and the recording of the petitioner’s statement, a charge sheet was filed.

The petitioner’s main argument was that based on the victim’s physical appearance, it could be presumed that she was over 18 years old. Therefore, without delving into further details, the petitioner performed the surgery with the intention of protecting the patient/victim.

Dismissing this defense, the court noted that the petitioner claimed to be an experienced gynaecologist with 35 years of practice. It deemed it highly improbable that the petitioner, upon observing the patient, did not realize that she was just 12 years and 11 months old and had been subjected to sexual intercourse resulting in pregnancy.

The court further emphasized that such statements and the victim’s attire at the time of entering the hospital would be matters of evidence and trial. They should not be considered at this stage under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which governs the quashing of FIRs.

The court highlighted that many cases of heinous offenses committed under the POCSO Act go unreported due to suppression of information. It stressed that non-reporting of such crimes is a serious offense itself.

In conclusion, the court directed the state to ensure strict compliance with Section 19 of the POCSO Act and the reporting of offenses, particularly by doctors involved in terminating pregnancies of minors in exceptional circumstances.

Consequently, the court dismissed the petitioner’s petition.

Dr. Chandrashekar T B And State of Karnataka

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