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COVID-19: Delhi HC suspends sentence imposed on 73-yr old POCSO offender; directs him to drop-a-pin on Google maps for location verification

Aditi Singh

In view of the unprecedented circumstances arising from COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent need to decongest prisons, the Delhi High Court has suspended the sentence imposed on a 73-year old POCSO offender for a period of three months. (Babu Lal vs State)

As a condition for release on bail, the Court has directed the offender to appear before the Investigating Officer (IO) every Friday between 11 am and 11:30 am through video call and also ‘drop-a-pin’ on Google maps, so that the IO can verify his presence and location.

The order was passed by a Single judge Bench of Justice Anup J Bhambhani.

The POCSO Offender (Applicant) had appealed against his conviction and order of sentence before the High Court and the same was admitted on Apirl 13.

The Applicant informed the Court that in 2016 he took treatment for various illnesses, such as myasthenia gravis with aspiration pneumonitis, Type-II diabetes mellitus, hypertension and bronchial asthma.

It was contended that the Appellant still remained under heavy medication and required regular monitoring and care to remain in a stable medical condition.

Asserting that he was a retired school teacher aged about 73 years and his past medical condition put him in a vulnerable category, the Applicant argued that it was medically unsafe for him to remain in prison during COVID-19.

State opposed the suspension of the sentence on the ground that conviction was under section 6 read with section 5(m) of the POCSO Act and the Applicant had been sentenced to 10 years in prison on February 24, 2020.

The fact that the Applicant was in a medically vulnerable position in prison was not disputed.

The Court was informed that the the Applicant had already paid the fine of Rs 10,000 imposed on him as part of the sentence and the victim had also received Rs 1.25 lakh under the Delhi Victim Compensation Scheme, 2018.

Considering the above, the Court opined,

In the unprecedented circumstances of a public health emergency that prevail today and the consequent need to decongest prisons for the overall medical safety of all prisoners, this court is persuaded to grant to the appellant interim suspension of sentence for a period of three months
Delhi High Court

The suspension/bail is subject to the the Applicant furnishing a personal bond in the sum of Rs 50,000 to the satisfaction of the Jail Superintendent.

Considering the prevailing lockdown, the furnishing of surety as a condition of bail was dispensed with by the Court and the Applicant was directed to not leave Delhi without permission of the Court.

While directing the Applicant to ordinarily reside in his place of residence as per prison records, the Court further ordered,

The appellant will make a video-call every Friday between 11 am and 11:30 am to the Investigating Officer, and in case the Investigating Officer is no longer in service or is otherwise unavailable, then to the SHO of the Police Station where the case was registered and also ‘drop-a-pin’ on Google maps, so that the IO/SHO can verify the appellant’s presence and location. Counsel for the appellant has confirmed that the appellant has the wherewithal to comply with this condition.
Delhi High Court

Inter alia, the Court asked the Applicant to furnish his cellphone number and shall ensure that the same is kept active and switched-on at all times.

APP Asha Tiwari represented State.

Advocate Amit Chauhan represented by Applicant.

Read the order:

Babu Lal vs State.pdf
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