I am the principal of inter-college. One day peon of the college committed rape on a student of class eleven. Her father reported the incident to me on the same day and asked to file FIR. I thought that it might disrepute our institution, therefore, trying to compromise the matter. Eventually, he filed FIR and also made me an accused. Did I commit any offence under POCSO?
Yes, you have committed the offence punishable under section 19/21 of the POCSO Act. The protection of children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, makes non-reporting of the incident is an offence. It was your responsibility to inform the offence to the nearest police station when you came to know that rape committed by school peon.
POCSO Act is special legislation for the protection of children from the sexual offence. If a person knows that a crime under this Act is committed, he is bound to inform
(a) the Special Juvenile Police Unit; or
(b) the local police.
Section 19: POCSO Act
Section 19: responsibility to inform the offence to the police lies upon a person who aware of the offence. You fell under that obligation immediately when the victim’s father informed you that peon had committed the rape.
Section 21: POCSO Act
Failure to report the case is an offence punishable under section 21 of the said Act. You are the principal of the school and rapist (peon) is your subordinate. Hence, your act is punishable under section 21(2) of the POCSO Act. If a person being an in-charge of an institution did not provide the information that his subordinate committed the offence, he is liable under section 21(2).
Knowledge of offence
It is necessary for the offence under section 21 that person knows that offence has been committed. The in-charge of the institution must know about the crime. The victim’s father informed you and brought the incident in your knowledge on the very same day as well as he seeks from you to file FIR. Unfortunately, you deliberately tried to compromise the matter.
When you decided to compromise the case you knew about the offence. Therefore, you had committed a crime under section 21(2) of the POCSO Act.
Article 15 and 39 of the constitution of India permit the parliament to make special laws for children. Hence the POCSO Act enacted. Girls are helpless against the sexual offences thereby POCSO Act assigns a duty upon the person to launch the criminal law by providing information to the police.
It was your liability to file FIR and help the police to apprehend the accused immediately. In A.S. Krishnan v. State of Kerala, AIR 2004 SC 3229 the Supreme Court holds that “Knowledge” is an awareness on the part of the person concerned indicating his state of mind. Therefore, awareness is equivalent to knowledge. Your attempts to compromise the case proves that you were aware of the crime.
You may be tried by accused
Section 223 of the Code of Criminal Procedure mandates that two or more accused can be tried together if they committed the different offences in the same transaction. However, you both had committed different crimes, but you may try jointly.