Sikk HC | Charge under S. 376 (1) of IPC to be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt”; accused given benefit of doubt

Sikkim High Court: The Division Bench comprising of Vijai Kumar Bist, CJ and Bhaskar Raj Pradhan, J. partly allowed an appeal filed under Section 374 (2) of CrPC.

The above-stated appeal was directed against the judgment and order passed by the Court of the Fast Track Judge, whereby the Court convicted the accused/appellant Sangay Bhutia under Sections 376(1), 323 and 341 of the Penal Code, 1860.

According to the prosecution story, as stated, a report was lodged by the husband (PW 2) of the victim stating that while his wife was returning to her house from her duty, Sangay Bhutia suddenly appeared from the back and grabbed her from behind and started assaulting her on the head when she shouted for help. Following it, she became unconscious and when she regained consciousness she found that the accused already ran away from the spot. Thereafter, the victim went to her house and told the same to her husband.

Case was committed to the Court of Sessions Judge and the charges against the accused were framed under Sections 323, 341 and 376 of Penal Code, 1860. Thereafter, accused/appellant was also examined by the Court where he denied all the allegations against him.

Learned Counsel for the appellant Manita Pradhan, submitted that, the Court below has committed grave error both on facts and law in passing the impugned judgment. Adding to her submission, she stated that the trial judge failed to appreciate the fact that the victim never told PW2 her husband that after she regained consciousness she found her trousers and underwear been pulled down while she was in a state of unconsciousness.

Trial Court also failed to appreciate the fact that the victim admitted that she cannot say for sure if she had been raped by the appellant/accused while she was unconscious. Allegation of her being raped is not corroborated by any evidence or witnesses and in absence of any corroboration, suspicion of victim cannot be equated with proof and cannot form basis of conviction.

Counsel for the appellant relied on the case of Ramdas v. State of Maharashtra, (2007) 2 SCC 170, wherein it was held that,

“Conviction in a case of rape can be based solely on the testimony of the prosecutrix, but that can be done in a case where the Court is convinced about the truthfulness of the prosecutrix and there exist no circumstances which casts a shadow of doubt over her veracity.”

The High Court after carefully noting the submissions of the parties and considering the facts and circumstances of the case concluded the matter by stating that,

“It is true that the sole testimony of the victim is sufficient to convict an accused. It is absolutely correct that no self-respecting woman would falsely state that she had been raped.”

But, the Court is supposed to evaluate the evidence of the victim more carefully if medical evidence does not support the commission of sexual assault on the victim. In the present case, the victim’s statement implies that she was not sure of whether she was rape or not and neither the evidence of her husband PW 2 mentioned the same. Medical report also does not suggest that the victim was raped.

Therefore, the appellant is acquitted from the charge under Section 376(1) along with the sentence being set aside, though the Court made it clear that it would not mean that the prosecution case is totally false.

Thus, the charges under Sections 323 and 341 of Penal Code, 1860 were proved and the finding of the trial court in that regard stands affirmed. [Sangay Bhutia v. State of Sikkim, 2019 SCC OnLine Sikk 121, decided on 23-08-2019]

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