Saying that the courts must keep in mind the “devastating increase” in cases of rape and crime against women not only in India but internationally, the Supreme Court on Friday held that the courts must make sure that offenders do not escape punishment on frivolous grounds and handed out rigorous life imprisonment to a rape case accused who was earlier acquitted.
A bench led by Justice P Sathasivam reversed the acquittal of one Munesh by the Allahabad High Court in 2003 after noting that the High Court had erred in disbelieving the statements of witnesses, whose testimony were adequately reliable under the law.
Munesh was made to stand trial in connection with a rape-cum-murder case lodged in Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh in March 2002.
While he was sentenced to death by a trial court, the High Court had acquitted him by holding that his crime could not be established beyond reasonable doubts.
Puncturing holes in the HC judgment, the apex court Bench noted that there were no material discrepancies or contradictions in the statements of witnesses or by the 11-year-old victim, which could be held to be materially denting the prosecution’s case. The court upheld the finding of the trial court and held that the evidence established that Munesh had first raped and then killed the 11-year-old girl.
Sentencing Munesh to life in prison, the court underlined the concerns across the globe regarding spurt in such crimes. “The primary concern both at national and international level is about the devastating increase in rape cases and cases relating to crime against women in the world. India is no exception to it,” it said.
The court added that although there were statutory provisions providing strict penal actions against such offenders, it was for the courts to ultimately decide the veracity of complaints.
“The courts should be more cautious in appreciating the evidence and the accused should not be left scot-free merely on flimsy grounds. In the instant case, the accused had committed rape, which repels against moral conscience as he chose a girl of 11 years to satisfy his lust and subsequently murdered her,” noted the apex court.
It ordered Munesh to surrender before the court or the police within two weeks.