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Conviction can be founded on the testimony of the prosecutrix alone

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NATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH DESK

State of Himachal Pradesh v Asha Ram   AIR 2006 SC 381   / Supreme Court of India

The SC herein showed displeasure and dismay over the way the High Court dealt casually with such a grave offence, as in the given case, overlooking the alarming and shocking increase of sexual assault on the minor girls. In this case the accused was father of the prosecutrix. The Court averred herein that “There can never be more graver and heinous crime than the father being charged of raping his own daughter. He not only delicts the law but it is a betrayal of trust. The father is the fortress and refuge of his daughter in whom the daughter trusts. Charged of raping his own daughter under his refuge and fortress is worst than the gamekeeper becoming a poacher and treasury guard becoming a robber.”

  The facts of this case “shocked the judicial conscience.” The respondent-accused Asha Ram was married and out of the wedlock they had three daughters and two sons. The accused was having strained relations with his wife and was living separately. His wife was living in some servant quarters with one of the daughters and two sons. Accused was living in the accommodation allotted to him in the servant quarters attached to Raj Bhawan with the other two daughters namely Kumari Uma and Kumari Seema (prosecutrix). On the fateful night the accused returned home at about 12.30 AM and went to the room where his daughters Uma and Seema were sleeping. He asked Kumari Seema to serve him the dinner. On being asked, the prosecutrix went to the kitchen and brought the food to the room of the accused. The accused is alleged to have bolted the door of his room from inside and after switching off the light asked Kumari Seema to sleep in the same room. He then forcibly committed rape on her and even the pleadings of the prosecutrix went unheard by him, and when she tried to raise alarm her mouth was gagged. pleaded with the accused that she is his daughter but he turned a deaf ear and forcibly committed sexual intercourse with her. It is further alleged that when she tried to raise cries, her mouth was gagged by the accused with a piece of cloth. She narrated the entire occurrence to her sister Uma. On the following morning they went to their mother to inform her about the occurrence after which a complaint was registered under Section 376 IPC and accordingly a charge was framed.

The trial court found the accused guilty under S. 376 IPC sentenced him to suffer rigorous imprisonment for 5 years and a fine of Rs.1000/- and in default rigorous imprisonment for 3 months. Though seeing the gravity of the crime of rape by father on her daughter the SC increased the punishment from 5 years RI to imprisonment for life.

The SC upheld the conviction and held that, “it is now well settled principle of law that conviction can be founded on the testimony of the prosecutrix alone unless there are compelling reasons for seeking corroboration. The evidence of a prosecutrix is more reliable than that of an injured witness. The testimony of the victim of sexual assault is vital unless there are compelling reasons which necessitate looking for corroboration of her statement, the courts should find no difficulty in acting on the testimony of a victim of sexual assault alone to convict an accused where her testimony inspires confidence and is found to be reliable. It is also well settled principle of law that corroboration as a condition for judicial reliance on the testimony of the prosecutrix is not a requirement of law but a guidance of prudence under given circumstances. … Even minor contradictions or insignificant discrepancies in the statement of the prosecutrix should not be a ground for throwing out an otherwise reliable prosecution case.”

Court herein reiterated the point made out by itself that in the case of Bharwada Bhoginbhai Hirjibhai v State of Gujarat, AIR 1983 SC 753 at pp.756-757 that “in the Indian setting, refusal to act on the testimony of a victim of sexual assault in the absence of corroboration as a rule, is adding insult to injury. Why should the evidence of the girl or the woman who complains of rape or sexual molestation be viewed with the aid of spectacles fitted with lenses tinged with doubt, disbelief or suspicion?”   It also referred to judgments in the cases of Rafiq v State of U.P. (1980) 4 SCC 262, Madan Gopal Kakkad v Naval Dubey (1992) 3 SCC 204, on corroboration of testimony of a prosecutrix.

 It also referred to the case of Ranjit Hazarika v State of Assam, (1998) 8 SCC 635, wherein this Court held that “non-rupture of hymen or absence of injury on victim’s private parts does not belie her testimony.” Also while referring the case of State of Punjab v Gurmit Singh (1996) 2 SCC 384, this Court pointed out that “Rape is not merely a physical assault — it is often destructive of the whole personality of the victim. … The Court, therefore, shoulder a great responsibility while trying an accused on charges of rape. They must deal with such 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 a fatal nature, to throw out an otherwise reliable prosecution case.” The SC reiterated its observation made in the Gurmit Singh’s case in State of Rajasthan v N.K. (2000) 5 SCC 30 and stated that “…no guilty should escape unpunished once the guilt has been proved to hilt.”

State Of Himachal Pradesh vs Asha Ram – 2005

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