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Court cannot cast a stigma on the character of a victim

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NATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH DESK

“It demonstrates lack of sensitivity on the part of the court by casting unjustified stigmas on a prosecutrix aged below 16 years in a rape case, by overlooking human psychology and behavioral probabilities. An intrinsically wrong approach while appreciating the testimonial potency of the evidence of the prosecutrix has resulted in miscarriage of justice.”

“We must express our strong disapproval of the approach of the trial court and its casting a stigma on the character of the prosecutrix. The observations lack sobriety expected of a Judge. Such like stigmas have the potential of not only discouraging an even otherwise reductant victim of sexual assault to bring forth complaint for trial of criminals, thereby making the society to suffer by letting the criminal escape even a trial.”

In the given case when the girl came out of a school wherein she had been going for her matriculation examination and was on her way to home when she was forcibly taken into a car by the accused persons and then they took her to a lonely place and raped her one by one in the day as well as night. During the incident she was also made to drink liquor, being termed as juice by the accused person, even after resistance. She was left at the venue of her examination after the incident on the next morning. On this day she narrated the whole story to her mother and the case was reported to the police next day as her father came late from the farm on the next day of occurrence of the incident.

The SC negated the version of Trial Court and held that the prosecutrix could not elaborate about the car because, in her statement categorically asserted that, as soon as she was pushed inside the car she was threatened by the accused to keep quiet and not to raise any alarm otherwise she would be killed. Under these circumstances to discredit the prosecutrix for not raising an alarm while the car was passing through the Bus Adda is travesty of justice. The SC stated that the Trail Court over-looked the situation in which a poor helpless minor girl had found herself in the company of three desperate young men who were threatening her and preventing her from raising any alarm. Again, the SC stressed that laxity on the part of Investigating Officer cannot become a ground to discredit the testimony of the prosecutrix and that Trial Court erred  indiscrediting the testimony of the prosecutrix on that account.Further, it opined that, “there was no delay in the lodging of the FIR either and if at all … in the facts and circumstances of the case was also natural.”

On corroboration the Court insisted that non-corroboration of a prosecutrix’s testimony is not fatal for the conviction of the accused and stated that, “The Court while appreciating the evidence of a prosecutrix may look for some assurance of her statement to satisfy its judicial conscience, since she is a witness who is interested in the outcome of the charge levelled by her, but there is no requirement of law to insist upon corroboration of her statement to base conviction of an accused.”

It also referred to the case of State of Maharashtra Vs. Chandraprakash Kewalchand Jain 1990 (1) SCC 550 on corroboration of the victim’s testimony and quoted Justice Ahmadi as stating that “A prosecutrix of a sex offence cannotbe put on par with an accomplice. She isin fact a victim of the crime. TheEvidence Act nowhere says that herevidence cannot be accepted unless it iscorroborated in material particulars.”

Finally the SC,while seeing that more than a decade has passed after the incident and the accused persons were first time offenders, sentenced them for the offence under Section 376 IPC to undergo five years R.I. each and to pay a fine of Rs. 5000/- each and in default of payment of fine to 1 year’s R.I. each. For the offence under Section 363 IPC it sentence them to undergo three years R.I. each though impose no separate sentence for the offence under Section 366/368 IPC. Though,the sentences were ordered to run concurrently.

State of Punjab vs Gurmit Singh 1996

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