The Superme Court refused to stall the trial against Asaram Bapu in a sexual assault case pending in Rajasthan. Justices B S Chauhan and A K Sikri agreed to examine the legal issues relating to determination of the age of the complainant girl, but clarified that no interim relief, including bail, could be granted to Asaram and two other accused.
Asaram’s counsel U U Lalit contested the trial court’s reliance on the girl’s matriculation certificate and treat her as a “child” under the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act. He claimed her school-leaving certificate showed her to be a major on the date of alleged offence. Lalit also pointed out the alleged discrepancy between the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act and the Juvenile Justice Act in defining a “child” and the procedure to determine the age.
Earlier in this case Defence counsel had moved an application in district court Jodhpur challenging the age of the girl and argued in the court that the girl was not a minor. “For this, the defence cited girl’s pre-school certificate as a ground, which the court refused to accept stating that only secondary certificate was valid as age certificate” and taking a dig at the repeated filing of applications in the court challenging the age of the teenage girl who was allegedly sexually assaulted by Asaram, the district and sessions court rejected the application with a cost of Rs 5,000. Public Prosecutor R L Meena said “Every time, when the defence had challenged the age of the girl, it has used the ground which was not legal. The main objective of the defence behind getting Asaram discharged from the sections under POCSO Act is to pave the path to his bail and bring down the severity of the crime”.