Press Trust of India: Courts can convict a rape accused on the basis of the sole evidence given by a victim unless her testimony is proved to be infirm and not trustworthy, the Supreme Court has ruled.
“If the totality of circumstances appearing on the record of the case discloses that the prosecutrix does not have a strong motive to falsely involve the person charged, the court should ordinarily have no hesitation in accepting her evidence,” a bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice S H Kapadia said.
“It is a settled law that the victim of sexual assault is not treated as accomplice and as such, her evidence does not require corroboration from any other evidence including the evidence of a doctor. In a given case even if the doctor who examined the victim does not find sign of rape, it is no ground to disbelieve the sole testimony of the prosecutrix,” it said.
The court took into account the fact that “the Indian women have tendency to conceal such offence because it involves her prestige as well as prestige of her family. Only in few cases, the victim girl or the family members have the courage to go before the police station and lodge a case.”
The ruling came on an appeal filed by one Om Prakash from UP, who was sentenced to 10-year rigorous imprisonment by the trial court for raping a pregnant woman in 1985. The Allahabad High Court also upheld his conviction under Section 376(2)(E) of IPC.
However, the apex court reduced his sentence to 7-year rigorous imprisonment, saying in the absence of any material to show that the accused knew the victim to be pregnant, Section 376(2)(E) of IPC cannot be applied.
Noting that crime against women in general and rape in particular is on the rise, the bench reminded the courts of their responsibility while trying rape cases.
“They (courts) must deal with such (rape) cases with utmost sensitivity. The courts should examine the broader probabilities of a case and not get swayed by minor contradictions or insignificant discrepancies in the statement of the prosecutrix, which are not of fatal nature, to throw out an otherwise reliable case,” the apex court said.
“If evidence of the prosecutrix inspires confidence, it must be relied upon without seeking corroboration of her statement in material particulars. If for some reason the court finds it difficult to place implicit reliance on her testimony, it may look for evidence which may lend assurance to her testimony, short of corroboration required in the case of an accomplice,” it said.
Observing that a victim of a sex-offence cannot be put on a par with an accomplice as she is a victim of the crime, the bench noted the Evidence Act nowhere says that her evidence cannot be accepted unless it is corroborated in material particulars.
“She is undoubtedly a competent witness under Section 118 (of Evidence Act) and her evidence must receive the same weight as is attached to an injured in cases of physical violence,” it said.
The apex court, however, advised the courts that “the testimony of the prosecutrix must be appreciated in the background of the entire case.”
Source: The Indian Express