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Courts should have a sensitive approach in cases of victims of Sexual Assault

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NATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH DESK

State Of Rajasthan v Om Prakash on 3 May, 2002  – Citation: (2002) 5 SCC 745 – Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court herein observed that “It is necessary for the courts to have a sensitive approach when dealing with cases of child rape. The effect of such a crime on the mind of the child is likely to be lifelong. A special safeguard has been provided for children in the Constitution of India in Article 39 which, inter alia, stipulates that the State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing that the tender age of the children is not abused and the children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that the childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.”

 In the present case, the victim at the time of occurrence of rape was a child aged eight years. The accused was youth aged 18 years. The house of the accused was quite close to that of the prosecutrix. The FIR was registered in this case on the next day of the occurrence of the incident. Herein the Court reiterated the proposition while referring to the cases of State of Punjab v Gurmit Singh and Ors. (1996) 2 SCC 384, and State of Maharashtra v. Chandraprakash Kewal Chand Jain (1990) 1 SCC 550; that the conviction for offence under Section 376 IPC can be based on the sole testimony of a rape victim.  In the abovementioned cases the Supreme Court held that, “it must not be overlooked that a woman or a girl subjected to sexual assault is not an accomplice to the crime but is a victim of another person’s lust and it is improper and undesirable to test her evidence with a certain amount of suspicion, treating her as if she were an accomplice.”

Observations of Dr. Justice A.S. Anand speaking for the court were referred stating that “the inherent bashfulness of the females and the tendency to conceal outrage of sexual aggression are factors which the courts should not overlook.”

The Court disapproved of the approach taken by the High Court and held that “The High Court has clearly committed a serious illegality in assuming that in natural course of events if rape had been committed, the young child girl and her mother would have shouted so as to collect others and they would have visited her house. The prosecutrix was unconscious. There was no question of prosecutrix shouting as assumed by the High Court. Too much was made by the High Court on account of non-examination of persons other than the family members. … The cases involving sexual molestation and assault require a different approach a sensitive approach and not an approach which a court may adopt in dealing with a normal offence under penal laws.”

The Court negated the contention that the revenge on account of alleged dispute regarding exchange of land would be taken by the father of the prosecutrix by foisting on the accused a false case of rape involving his young daughter particularly in the setting of a village environment. The conviction could not be set aside for the non-examination of independent witness. Thus his conviction was reinstated for offence under Section 376, Indian Penal Code and rigorous imprisonment for seven years was imposed with fine of Rs.1,000/- and in default of payment of fine to further undergo six months’ rigorous imprisonment.

State of Rajasthan Vs Om Prakash – 2002

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