In a significant observation, the Punjab and Haryana High Court last week opined that the fact that one is a member of the social media group where an objectionable video was circulated makes him/her an accomplice to the offence.

Justice Suvir Sehgal was hearing an application for anticipatory bail in a FIR under Sections 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 354-A IPC (Sexual harassment), Sections 384 (extortion) and 120-B IPC and Section 8 (sexual assault) of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. The petitioner before the Court was an unmarried girl aged 26 years.

Objectionable content posted in group, member also accomplice to offence

The facts of the case were that a written complaint was given by a 16 year old girl, stating that a woman (namely, Madam Supriya) whose house she used to visit 3 years ago for tuitions, used to force her to drink, smoke and even administered her some injections, and made an obscene video of her (victim), blackmailed her and demanded money as well as jewellery from her.

The tutor had uploaded the video in a group of which the present petitioner (namely, Paramjeet Kaur), is a member, besides 4 other males. The victim stated that all the accused used to threaten to molest her and were extracting money from her. She stated that she did not report the incident earlier because she was scared that her parents will reprimand her. The statement of victim was recorded under Section 164 Cr.P.C.

The Counsel for the petitioner has submitted that the petitioner is innocent and has been falsely implicated. According to the counsel, the petitioner is working as a computer operator in a private hospital, and had taught the

complainant after finishing her job for about 2-3 months. The father of the complainant used to drop and pick her up from the house of the petitioner at around 10 PM every night.

"The FIR has been registered on the statement of a 16 years old girl that implicates the petitioner. The accused including the petitioner used to threaten her as a result of which, she was so scared that for three years she did not even report the incident to her parents", observed the Single Judge.

The Single Bench lamented that the victim is now "mentally unstable" and this could "probably be the result of the trauma that she has gone through in her growing years at the hands of petitioner and other co-accused".

"The fact that the petitioner was a member of the group where the objectionable video was circulated makes her accomplice to the offence", asserted the Court, naming the petitioner, a "sexual predator".

"The life of a young child has been ruined as a result of the abuse that she has gone through in her formative years", stated the bench, and considering the gravity of the offence and the fact that the victim was a minor girl of 13 years of age at the time of alleged occurrence, ruled that the petitioner is not entitled to the concession of anticipatory bail.

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