Recently, the Himachal Pradesh High Court has denied bail to a 19-year-old boy who was accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl while citing that ‘just because the victim sent a friend request to the accused does not give him the right and liberty to establish sexual relations with her’.
The bench headed by Justice Anoop Chitkara has while dismissing a bail application filed by a boy accused of raping a thirteen-year-old girl, observed that “People use social media for networking, knowledge, and entertainment and indeed not to get stalked or be exploited sexually and mentally.”
The accused, who took the girl to a hotel where he committed coitus with her, had taken the defense that it was the victim that had sent him a friend request on Facebook and that since she had created a Facebook account in her name, it made him believe that she was aged 18 years and more.
Nonetheless, the court said that the argument of the petitioner did not hold any ground while relying on the terms of Facebook, as per which a person needs to be at least 13 years of age and not 18 to create an account.
“It is not unusual for youngsters to make new social connections by sending friend requests. It no way implies that children who create social media accounts do so to search for sexual partners, or they intend to receive such invitations. The use of social media in present times is a norm,” held the court while further clarifying that the consent was out of the question as the restrictions on age imposed vide Indian Penal Code 1860, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012, made it clear that a child under 18 years of age could not consent for sex.
“If a child mentions the wrong age on Facebook, it does not become a gospel truth, and it certainly does not lead to a prima facie presumption that such person is not a child but a major of 18 years of age or above,” the Court underscored.
Further, the Court relied on the case of Ragunath Ramnath Zolekar vs. the State of Maharashtra, wherein the Bombay High Court dealt with the mistake of age as a defense and rejected the argument that mens rea was a part of Section 375 and 376 IPC and unless and until the knowledge of the accused that the prosecutrix being below the age of 16 years was proved, the penal liability for the said act will not be attracted.
In this regard, the single-judge bench of Himachal Pradesh HC said that it was not uncommon for people to not reveal everything about their age and identity on social media as it is a public platform and went on to dismiss the petition noting that the accused failed to make out a case for bail.