West Bengal Files Appeal Against HC Verdict on ‘Adolescent Girls’, Informs SC

Adolescent Girls

The West Bengal government on Thursday told the Supreme Court that an appeal has been filed by them challenging a verdict by Calcutta HC, which advised adolescent girls to “control sexual urges” and young men to train themselves to respect women.

Last year on December 8, the apex court had criticised the verdict and termed it as “highly objectionable and completely unwarranted”. The top court, which had initiated a suo motu writ petition in the matter had observed that judges are not expected to “preach” while writing judgements.

Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for West Bengal, informed the bench that the state has filed an appeal in the apex court against the October 18 last year verdict of the High Court. “The appeal was listed today before another bench of this court. That bench unfortunately could not sit,” he said.

The matter came up for hearing before a bench of justices A S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan. The bench observed the suo motu writ petition. Moreover, the appeal filed by state will have to be heard together.

The matter was heard before a bench of Justices A S Oka and Ujjal Bhuvan. The bench observed the suo moto writ petition. Additionally it stated that the appeal filed by state will have to be heard together.

“It is not only about observations. See the kind of findings,” it said.

“In the course of this, so many findings have been recorded. Where from these concepts come, we don’t know. But we want to deal with each and everything which is said. Your assistance is required,” it said.

The registry was asked to list the suo moto writ petition and special leave petition (SLP) filed by state on Jan 12 by the registry. This can only be done after the approval of the Chief Justice of India.

The High Court had said that female adolescents should “control sexual urges” and “not give into two minutes of pleasure”. In last year’s December 8 High Court order, the apex court referred to certain observations made by the High Court and said, “Prima facie, the said observations are completely in violation of the rights of the adolescents guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.” SC had observed the issue before the High Court was about the legality and validity of order and judgement dated September 19/20, 2022 by which a man was convicted for offences under sections 363 (kidnapping) and 366 (kidnapping, abducting or inducing woman to compel her marriage) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as well as section 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

“As per the order of the Chief Justice of India, suo motu writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India has been initiated mainly due to sweeping observations/findings recorded by the division bench of the High Court of Calcutta in the impugned judgment,” it had said.

In the appeal against conviction, apex court stated that the High Court was called upon to adjudicate on the merits of the appeal only, and nothing else.

“But we find that the high court has discussed so many issues which were irrelevant. Prima facie, we are of the view that while writing a judgment in such appeal, the judges are not expected to express their personal views. They are not expected to preach,” it had said.

The observations were made by the High Court while hearing an appeal by a man who was given a 20-year prison term for sexual assault.  The court had acquitted the man stating that this was a case of “non-exploitative consensual sexual relationship between two consenting adolescents, though consent in view of the age of the victim is immaterial”.

The High Court had also said it is the duty/obligation of every female adolescent to “protect her right to integrity of her body; protect her dignity and self-worth; thrive for overall development of herself transcending gender barriers; control sexual urge/urges as in the eyes of the society she is the loser when she gives in to enjoy the sexual pleasure of hardly two minutes; protect her right to autonomy of her body and her privacy”.

“It is the duty of a male adolescent to respect the aforesaid duties of a young girl or woman and he should train his mind to respect a woman, her self-worth, her dignity and privacy, and her right to autonomy of her body,” the High Court said.

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About the Author: Nunnem Gangte