The accused was the minor girl's neighbour. (Representational)
A court in Maharashtra's Palghar district has acquitted a 27-year-old man accused of raping a teenage girl, while giving him the benefit of doubt.
Special (POCSO) court judge Dr M S Deshpande, in the October 7 order which was made available on Saturday, said the prosecution failed to prove the charges against the accused, a labourer from Dahanu taluka here.
The prosecutor told the court that both the accused and the victim were neighbours. During a festival in 2017, the victim had gone to a pandal. The accused then took her to a secluded place where he allegedly raped her.
According to the prosecution, the man raped her on multiple occasions till April 2018 following which she became pregnant.
When her mother came to know about the pregnancy, she filed a police complaint against the man, who was later booked on rape charges and under provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
The judge in the order observed that the girl's testimony showed the accused was her neighbour and they had a love affair. "According to her, she was aged about 18 years old at the time of the incident. The prosecution has not examined any witness in order to bring on record the victim's true age and the date of birth. Therefore, the birth certificate copy filed along with the charge sheet is not proved by the prosecution," the court said.
The court also said the victim did not support the prosecution's case about her age, date of birth and the rape/sexual assault committed by the accused on her.
The victim's mother during her cross-examination, admitted that her daughter and the accused were residing together and they had a son. According to the victim's mother, they have no grievance against the accused. The case was filed at the instance of an anganwadi worker, the court noted. Also, there is no evidence that the accused raped or sexually assaulted the victim or threatened to kill her, the court said.
"Considering the aforesaid facts and circumstances, it appears the prosecution has failed to prove the age of the victim at the relevant time. It appears that the victim had attained the age of maturity and entered into a consensual sexual relationship with the accused and they were residing together as husband and wife," the judge said.
In the back drop, the accused will be entitled for the benefit of doubt and acquittal of the charges of commission of the alleged offences, the court said.