The Himachal Pradesh High Court has rejected the bail plea of a man accused of raping a 13-year-old girl. The accused had contended that the victim had sent a friend request to him and the victim made her account on Facebook itself, so she should be considered above 18 years of age.
The counsel for the accused also argued that the victim consented with the accused. Hearing the case, Justice Anoop Chitkara said people use social media for networking, knowledge and entertainment, not for sexual exploitation and mental abuse. The court further said that most of the youth are present and active on social media platforms today. Therefore, it is not uncommon to create new social relations by sending a friend request to the youth. It does not mean at all that children who create social media accounts do so for the pursuit of sex or with the intention of receiving such invitations.
In this case, the accused submitted that the girl had created a Facebook account in her own name, so it can be assumed that she was above 18 years of age and therefore she consented with the accused herself.
Hearing this, the court said that anyone 13 years of age or older can create a Facebook account and therefore this dispute is not acceptable. The court also remarked that sending a friend request to the victim’s accused cannot be inferred that the victim did so with the intention of establishing a cohabiting relationship.
In today’s modern era, people connect with each other through social media platforms. According to a report in Social Media for Youth and Civil Engagement in India, about 290 million people in India currently use Facebook. Of these, 190 million users are in the 15-29 age group, which is 66 percent of total Facebook users. Whereas in India, people in the age group of 15-29 represent only 27 percent of the total population, the court held.
The Judge observed that sending a friend request to someone does not mean that the sender wants some kind of mental or physical abuse. If the victim sent a friend request to the accused, it does not at all mean that the victim has given the accused the right and freedom to have sex.
The High Court said that the accused had seen the victim in person and he had known that the age of the victim is about 13 years. Hence the argument is dismissed that the victim is an adult for sexual intercourse. The victim is under 18 years of age and this is legally a rape case. The court rejected the pleas of the accused and refused bail.