Bombay High Court relief for octogenarian couple accused of abusing child

The two were handed a 10-year sentence in March by a POCSO court and got bail by the high court on April 8; defence says the entire case is an attempt to grab their SoBo home

Ashwin Parikh, 89, and Vimla Parikh, 84, face many health complications, said their lawyer

On Saturday, Ashwin Parikh, 89, and his wife Vimlaben Parikh, 84, walked out of Yerawada Central Jail, Pune, after the Bombay High Court granted them bail in a sexual abuse case. The elderly couple was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a special POCSO court on March 11 for allegedly sexually assaulting a three-year-old child from their building in 2013.

Senior criminal lawyer Dinesh Tiwari (left) represented the couple; Mikhail Dey assisted Tiwari in the case

Senior criminal lawyer Dinesh Tiwari (left) represented the couple; Mikhail Dey assisted Tiwari in the case

The defence says the case against the couple is an attempt to grab their home. The senior citizens were granted bail a few weeks after they were arrested in 2013 and they were sent to Arthur Road and Byculla jails and later last week, they were transferred to Yerwada jail.

Senior criminal lawyer Dinesh Tiwari, who represented the couple said, the two lived on a fourth floor home of a five-storey pagdi building in South Mumbai. They have four married children, including three daughters, who stay separately. Their only son and one of the daughters are settled in the US.

Explaining the prosecution’s case, Tiwari said the three-year-old allegedly visited the elderly couple’s house on return from school on September 4, 2013 and was allegedly abused by them. The same evening, the child narrated the alleged incident to her mother, who approached the the police, who registered a case and arrested them. They got bail a month later.

Seven years on, the elderly citizens were found guilty under Section 6 of the POCSO Act and were fined Rs 1,000. While they moved the Bombay HC, more twists and turns surfaced. Their lawyer Tiwari tested positive for COVID-19. An arrangement was done for Tiwari’s online appearance, but the matter got postponed to April 8 after a technical glitch cropped up. Coincidentally, Tiwari got discharged the same morning and appeared before Judge Revathi Mohite Dere.

HC’s observation
The defence cited several inconsistencies in the evidence of witnesses and material omissions and told the court that the couple was falsely implicated to usurp their house.

After hearing both sides, the court said in its order, “The applicants can be released on cash bail of Rs 25,000 each for a period of six weeks. The applicants shall within the period of six weeks furnish Personal [PR] bond in the sum of Rs 25,000 with one or more sureties in the like amount.”

Tiwari said, “It is an unfortunate matter where the senior citizens were convicted on the basis of the evidence which is allegedly unreliable. In this matter even the medical evidence was not fully in support of the prosecution’s case. Apart from the medical evidence, even forensic evidence was nil.”

Tiwari added, “It is also apparent that the sexual abuse law is being misused. In fact with the conviction of an innocent person, the system fails whether it is the investigating agency, prosecution or the other agencies involved.”

Advocate Mikhail Dey, who assisted Tiwari in the case, said, “The couple has health issues for over a decade and cannot stand without support, and they have been accused of such a heinous act, which has even shocked their children and other residents in the neighbourhood.” 

Will seek action: Defence 
Tiwari alleged that the entire case was an attempt to grab the couple’s house. The lawyer said, “The place where the complainant and elderly couple reside is an old pagdi chawl, wherein the rights of the property can either be surrendered to the actual owner or the property could be transferred to anyone else. And each room is of around 180 sqft.” 

Tiwari explained that unlike a cooperative society where the right of property always goes to the legal heir post the demise of the owner, in case of a padgi system, the said property goes back to the  owner post their demise and legal heirs who are not staying in the pagdi house have no right over the property. When the couple did not agree to the proposal despite attempts to pressure them, the complainant lodged a false complaint, said the lawyer. When asked the ground on which Tiwari was making such a statement, he said, “Post registering the FIR at the police station and subsequent release of the elderly couple, the complainant allegedly approached them again, stating that the complaint would be withdrawn, subject to them giving up their rights over their said property to them, which the couple again refused to do.”

Tiwari added, “The matter would be heard on merit in the next few months and I will prove to the court that the entire case was based on a concocted story and I would also demand for appropriate penal action against the complainant for allegedly registering a false complaint.”

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