‘Ability to do some household chores does not discard evidence of prosecutrix’s mental disorder’; SC holds man guilty for rape of a mentally deficient woman

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah*, JJ refused to interfere with the conviction of a man for sexually assaulting a mentally deficient woman.

“A person suffering from mental disorder or mental sickness deserves special care, love and affection. They are not to be exploited. In the present case, the accused has exploited the victim by taking disadvantage of her mental sickness/illness. Therefore, no interference of this Court against the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court convicting the accused is called for.”

Brief Background

In 2008, the 19-year-old prosecutrix, was sexually assaulted by the accused in the jugle where they both used to go to graze cattle. The accused threatened the prosecutrix not to disclose the incident to anyone and due to fear and due to forgetting the same and further due to mental weakness, she did not disclose about the incident to anyone including her mother. When she was medically examined, it was found that she was 31 weeks pregnant. After she gave birth to a female child, blood samples of the prosecutrix, the baby and the accused were taken for DNA test.  As per report, accused was the biological father of the female child.

The trial Court acquitted the accused mainly on the ground of delay in lodging the FIR and also on the ground that the prosecutrix was not mentally unsound to understand the consequences and what was happening.

However, the Himachal Pradesh High Court sentenced the accused to undergo seven years R.I. with fine of Rs. 10,000/- and in default of payment of fine, further six months R.I. under Section 376 IPC and four years R.I. with fine   of Rs.5,000/- and in default of payment of fine, further three months R.I. under Section 506 IPC.

Analysis

On re-appreciation of evidence by the High Court

The Court held that in the facts and circumstances of the case the High Court is justified and, as such, has not committed any error in reversing the order of acquittal passed by the learned trial Court and convicting the accused for the offences under Sections 376 and 506 IPC. Being the first appellate Court, the High Court was justified in re-appreciating the entire evidence on record and the reasoning given by the learned trial Court.

On the mental condition of the prosecutrix

“Merely because the victim was in a position to do some household works cannot discard the medical evidence that the victim had mild mental retardation and she was not in a position to understand the good and bad aspect of sexual assault.”

Is language material for conducting IQ tests?

In   the   crossexamination, the Medical Expert specifically stated that the language is not material in the tests because these are independent of language. IQ of a person can be known on the basis of the questions, activities and the history of a patient. Therefore, even if there might be some contradictions with respect to language known by the victim, in that case also, it cannot be said to be the major contradictions to disbelieve the entire medical evidence on the mental status of the victim.

On the culpability of the accused

On evidence, it was established and proved that the victim was mentally retarded and her IQ was 62. Holding that the accused had taken disadvantage of the mental illness and low IQ of the victim, the Court noticed

“It is required to be appreciated coupled with the fact that the accused is found to be the biological father of the baby child delivered by the victim. Despite the above, in his 313 statement the case of the accused was of a total denial. It was never the case of the accused that it was a case of consent.”

Therefore, considering the evidence on record, the Court upheld the decision of the High Court wherein it was observed that case would fall under Section 375 IPC. Further, even as per clause fifthly of Section 375 IPC, “a man is said to commit rape”, if with her consent when, at the time of giving such consent, by reason of unsoundness of mind, is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gives consent.

On reduction of sentence

It was contended on behalf of the accused that he has already undergone four years RI out of seven years RI awarded to him and is married and has two children and therefore a lenient view may be taken. The Court rejected this contention and said

“…as such the High Court has also taken a very lenient view by imposing the minimum sentence of seven years RI.  It is required to be noted that it is a case of sexual assault on a victim whose IQ was 62 and was mentally retarded and that accused has taken undue advantage of the mental sickness/illness of the victim.”

[Chaman Lal v. State of Himachal Pradesh, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 988, decided on 03.12.2020]


*Justice MR Shah has penned this judgment

For Appellant: Advocate Radhika Gautam, learned Advocate has appeared for

For State: Advocate Sarthak Ghonkrokta

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