Case BriefsHigh Courts

Meghalaya High Court: W. Diengdoh, J.,  has held that the ingredients that are to be seen existing in an allegation of attempt to rape is that there must be firstly an intention to commit, then preparation to commit it and thirdly, to commit it.

In the present case, the victim/complainant deposed that while she was walking home, the accused, who came in a car, offered to drop her home and he went along with her on foot. While they were walking, the appellant started nudging her and on her protest that they belong to the same family clan, he replied in the negative and grabbed her on her shoulder and put her to the ground. “The victim/complainant struggled and pushed him away to which he acknowledged and released her. Thereafter, he offered to drop her again and told her that he was just testing her because a lot of girls from the village think that he was a rapist. Thereafter, he told her not to inform to anybody about what happened and the victim proceeded home.”

The appellant was charged with an offence under Sections 376 and 511 of the Penal Code, 1860 and was sentenced with rigorous imprisonment for three years and six months and a fine of Rs 10,000 on default of payment of fine with rigorous imprisonment of another six months by the Trial Court.

The said decision was challenged on the ground that there was no material to indicate that the accused/appellant had any intention or attempted to commit any offence.

“The accused/appellant did not even touch inappropriately nor made any attempt on any part of the body of the alleged victim to either molest or rape the alleged victim. There was also no resistance on the part of the alleged victim nor did she raised any alarm on her part.”

Before proceeding to analyse the case at hand, the High Court reminded that,

“… while deciding an appeal, the High Court has the same concurrent power to appreciate the evidence on record and by extension, to come to a conclusion whether to agree with the finding of the Trial Court or to come to another view point which may be contrary to the original verdict.”

The Court relied on the Supreme Court’s judgment in Koppula Venkat Rao v. State of AP, (2004) 3 SCC 602, wherein it was held that,

“In order to find an accused guilty of an attempt with intent to commit a rape, court has to be satisfied that the accused, when he laid hold of the prosecutrix, not only desired to gratify his passions upon her person, but that he intended to do so at all events, and notwithstanding any resistance on her part. Indecent assaults are often magnified into attempts at rape. In order to come to a conclusion that the conduct of the accused was indicative of a determination to gratify his passion at all events, and in spite of all resistance, materials must exist. Surrounding circumstances many times throw beacon light on that aspect.”

On appreciation of the evidence and materials on record, the High Court, hence, observed that as far as the applicability of Section 376 read with Section 511 IPC, the ingredients that are to be seen existing in an allegation of attempt to rape is that there must be firstly an intention to commit, then preparation to commit it and thirdly, to commit it.

Applying the said principle to the case at hand, the Court noticed that

“… the appellant met the victim by chance and offered to drop her to her village. Even if it is assumed that he has intention to commit the crime, there is no material to prove that he has made preparation for the same and as to the third ingredient that is, attempt to commit it, the evidence on record shows that he pushed the victim to the ground from her shoulder and after the victim struggled and pushed him away, he released her.”

Further, the appellant herein did not attempt to disrobe the victim and there is no indication that he tried to rape her and in the attempt, failed to do so after she raised a hue and cry.

The High Court was, of the opinion that the Trial Court has solely relied on the evidence of the victim without any corroboration with the supporting evidence, including the medical report, and failed to notice that no case under Section 376 read with Section 511 IPC could be made out against the appellant-accused as the same was not proved beyond reasonable doubt.

The Court relied on the judgment in the case of Tarkeshwar Sahu v. State of Bihar, (2006) 8 SCC 560 wherein the Supreme Court had elaborately discussed the essential ingredients of rape, and came to the conclusion that the crime committed by the accused was at the initial stage of preparation and hence, the offence committed does not come within the purview of offence punishable under Sections 376/511 IPC but the offence under Section 354 IPC was made out against the accused.

The Court, hence,  acquitted the accused of the charges under Section 376 read with Section 511 IPC and took recourse to Section 222 CrPC to charge the accused under Section 354 IPC sentencing him with rigorous imprisonment of one year with fine of Rs 5000 and on default of payment of fine with rigorous imprisonment of another six months. The Court ordered that the accused/appellant will serve out the sentence which will be set off with the period of conviction already undergone.[Denis Mukhim v. State of Meghalaya, Crl. A. No. 5 of 2019, decided on 04-03-2020]


Appearance made before the Court by:

For the Petitioner/Appellant(s) : Advocates C.H. Mawlong, S.R. Lyngdoh and K.S. Kharshiing

For the Respondent(s) : S. Sengupta, Addl. Sr. PP and R. Colney, GA.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: The Division Bench of Dr Kaushal Jayendra Thaker and Gautam Chowdhary, JJ., has requested the Registrar (Listing) through the Registrar General to place the matter before the Chief Justice that periodical listing of matters be taken up in the High Court so that those who are in jail for more than 10 or 14 years, where the appeals are pending, may at least get their appeal heard which are mainly jail appeals. The Court was deciding an appeal filed by the appellant who was in jail for 20 years. The Court reversed the conviction recorded against the appellant.

“Since 20 years, the accused is in jail.”

It was expressed by the Court that the most unfortunate aspect of the instant litigation was the same being preferred through jail.

The appellant challenged the decision passed by the Court of Sessions Judge, Lalitpur, whereby he was convicted under Section 376 IPC. Further, the appellant was convicted under Section 3(2)(v) read with Section 3(1)(xii) of the Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and Section 506 IPC.

Prosecution case was that the prosecutrix was raped by the accused-appellant. On disclosing the incident to the family, they did not report the same to the police station due to being threatened. Later, however, the victim along with her father-in-law and husband went to the police station to report the same.

Analysis, Law and Decision

The Court noted that the Trial Judge brushed aside the fact that the report was lodged three days later, but did not give any credence to this fact and decided to go through the merits of the case.

Further, the Court noted that although there were concrete positive signs from the oral testimony of the prosecutrix as regards the commission of forcible sexual intercourse; however, the medical officer opined both in ocular as well as her written report that the prosecutrix was having five months pregnant and no definite opinion about rape could be given.

In view of the above, the Court added that there were no injuries on the private part of the lady, who was a fully grown-up person and was pregnant.

Adding, the Court stated that even if it went as per the version of the prosecutrix that the accused had gagged her mouth for ten minutes and had thrashed her on ground, there would have been some injuries to the fully grown lady on the basis of the body. However, according to the doctor’s opinion, there were no signs of forcible sexual intercourse.

In such view of the discussion, the Court was of the opinion that the chain of the incident goes to show that the prosecutrix was not raped as would be clear from the provision of Section 375 read with Section 376 IPC.

The Court held that the Trial Judge did not make any finding as to the fact of how the commission of offence under Section 376 IPC was made out. The Trial Judge had materially erred as he did not discuss what was the evidence that the act was committed because of the caste of the prosecutrix. The reasoning of the lower Court Judge were against the record and perverse as the Judge without any evidence on record on his own has felt that the heinous crime was committed because the appellant had captured the will of the prosecutrix and because the police officer had investigated the matter as an atrocities case which would not be undertaken within the purview of Section 3(2)(v) of Atrocities Act and had recorded conviction under Section 3(2)(v) of Act, which cannot be sustained.

Hence, in view of the above discussion, the Court held that the appellant was wrongly convicted resulting in reversing the impugned decision.

While concluding, the Court noted that the State of U.P. even after 14 years of incarceration does not even send the matter to the Magistrate for re-evaluation of the cases for remission as per mandate of Sections 432 and 433 CrPC.

“Sections 433 and 434 CrPC enjoins a duty upon the State Government as well as Central Government to commute the sentences as mentioned in the said section. We are pained to mention that even after 14 years of incarceration, the State did not think of exercising its power for commutation of sentence of life imprisonment of the present accused and it appears that power of Governor provided under Article 161 of the Constitution of India are also not exercised though there are restriction to such power to commute sentence. The object of Sections 432 read with Section 433 of the CrPC is to remit the sentence awarded to the accused if it appears that the offence committed by him is not so grave.”

In the Court’s opinion, in the instant case, the appellant should have been entitled to remission. The factual scenario in the present case would show that had the Government thought of taking up the case of the appellant as per jail manual, it would have been found that the case of the appellant was not so grave that it could not have been considered for remission/commutation.

Seeing the sorry state of affairs, the Court requested the Registrar (Listing) through the Registrar General to place the matter before the Chief Justice that periodical listing of matters be taken up in the High Court so that those who are in jail for more than 10 or 14 years, where the appeal have been pending, may at least get their appeal heard which are mainly jail appeals.[Vishnu v. State of U.P., 2021 SCC OnLine All 133, decided on 28-01-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Subramonium Prasad, J., with regard to the settlement of disputes stated that:

“In crimes which seriously endangers the well being of the society, it is not safe to leave the crime doer only because he and the victim have settled the dispute amicably. “

The instant petition was filed under Section 482 CrPC for offence under Sections 419, 467, 471, 474, 376, 354, 506 read with Section 34 of the Penal Code, 1860.

Petitioner/Accused had met respondent 2 and revealed that his name to be Shiva and promised the complainant to marry her. Complainant and the Petitioner became intimate and had a physical relationship she had been promised marriage by the petitioner.

Later the respondent 2/complainant came to know that the petitioner had concealed his identity and his real name as ‘Akhtar’.

Respondent 2/Complainant stated in the FIR that the petitioner took her to Arya Samaj Mandir wherein they got married and in the marriage certificate he gave his name as Akhtar. After the marriage, the petitioner started demanding money and when respondent 2 visited his parents, she was driven away with them.

The instant petition was filed as the parties amicably settled their dispute.

A Status Report was also filed wherein it was stated that Akhtar/Shiva hid his identity and was sexually exploiting the respondent 2 for five years. It was also stated that the petitioner forged Aadhaar Cards and has got two Aadhaar Cards, one in the name of Akhtar and the second in the name of Shiva. On further investigation, it was also found that the marriage certificate was also fake.

Analysis and Decision

Bench stated that the power of the High Court under Section 482 CrPC to quash proceedings is those offences which are non-compoundable is recognized.

Court noted that the Supreme Court time and again held that the High Court has to keep in mind the subtle distinction between the power of compounding offences given to the Court under Section 320 CrPC and the quashing of criminal proceedings and the jurisdiction conferred upon it under Section 482 CrPC.

For the above purpose, Court cited the Supreme Court’s decision in Shiji v. Radhika, (2011) 10 SCC 705.

Further, the Bench added that:

“While exercising its power under Section 482 CrPC, High Court is guided by the material on record as to whether the ends of justice would justify such exercise of power.”

 Court referred to the Supreme Court decision in Gian Singh v. State of Punjab, (2012) 10 SCC 303, wherein it has been elaborated under what circumstances, criminal proceedings in a non-compoundable case could be quashed when there is a settlement between the parties.

In the case of Narinder Singh v. State of Punjab, (2014) 6 SCC 466, the Supreme Court laid down principles by which the High Courts should be guided in giving adequate treatment to the settlement between the parties.

Court expressed that:

An offence of rape is an offence against the society at large and apart from offence under Section 376, the petitioner is also accused of committing offences under Sections 419,467,468,471,474,506 and 34 IPC.

In view of the facts and circumstances of the case, Bench opined that it is not in a position to quash the FIR on the basis of compromise entered into between the parties and wherein it was stated that the petitioner/accused and the respondent 2 decide to stay as husband and wife and lead their peaceful marital life.

Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that when parties reach a settlement and on that basis a petition is filed for quashing criminal proceedings, the guiding factor for the High Court before quashing the complaint in such cases would be to secure; a) ends of justice, b) to prevent abuse of process of any court.

In view of the FIR and Status Report, Bench held that it’s evident that the petitioner has been accused of serious offences like rape and forgery having a bearing on vital societal interest and these offences cannot be construed to be merely private or civil disputes but rather will have an effect on the society at large.[Akhtar v. GNCTD,  2021 SCC OnLine Del 260 , decided on 01-02-2021]


Advocates for the parties:

Petitioner: Haraprasad Sahu, Advocate

Respondents: Kusum Dhalla, APP for State

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: The Division Bench of Ved Prakash Vaish and Vikas Kunvar Srivastav, JJ., expressed that:

“Justice demands that courts should impose punishment fitting to the crime. The courts must not only keep in view the rights of the criminal but also the rights of the victim of crime and the society at large while considering imposition of appropriate punishment.”

Appellant was convicted for the offence under Section 376 of the Penal Code, 1860, though he was acquitted for the offence under Section 506(2) of the Penal Code, 1860.

Father of the Prosecutrix had lodged a complaint that his daughter had gone for easement by the roadside and did not return to the house for a long time and on inquiry, his son Kalim Ahmad aged 13 years informed that Prem Chamar forcibly took the prosecutrix on his bicycle.

On reaching outside the village, he saw his daughter (prosecutrix) weeping who disclosed the entire incident and found the bloodstains on her undergarments and concluded that Prem Chamar had committed rape on his daughter.

In light of the above sequence of events, offence under Section 376 IPC was registered.

Trial Court found the appellant to be guilty of having committed the offence under Section 376 IPC and sentenced the appellant.

On being aggrieved with the above, appellant preferred the present appeal.

Analysis and Decision

“It is settled law that refusal to act on the testimony of the victim of sexual assault in absence of corroboration as a rule, is adding to insult to injury.”

 Bench further in light of the above expressed that, a girl or a woman in the tradition-bound non-permissive society of India would be extremely reluctant even to admit that any incident which is likely to reflect on her chastity had ever occurred.

“A woman or a girl who is raped is not an accomplice. Corroboration is not the sine qua non for conviction in a rape case.”

 Court referred to the decisions of Supreme Court in State of Punjab v. Gurmit Singh, (1996) 2 SCC 384 and Takhatji Hiraji v. Thakore Kubersing Chamansingh, (2001) 6 SCC 145, Vijendra Singh v. State of U.P., (2017) 11 SCC 129, State of H.P. v. Gian Chand, (2001) 6 SCC 71, Aslam v. State of U.P., (2014) 13 SCC 350, State of Haryana v. Basti Ram, (2013) 4 SCC 200, Raju v. State of M.P., (2008) 15 SCC 133.

High Court stated that Supreme Court had observed in Raju v. State of M.P., (2008) 15 SCC 133, that it cannot be lost sight of that rape causes the greatest distress and humiliation to the victim but at the same time a false allegation of rape can cause equal distress, humiliation and damage to the accused as well. The accused must also be protected against the possibility of false implication. There is no presumption or any basis for assuming that the statement of such a witness is always correct or without any embellishment or exaggeration.

“Courts while trying an accused on the charge of rape, must deal with the case with the utmost sensitivity, examining the broader probabilities of a case and not get swayed by minor contradictions or insignificant discrepancies in the evidence of the witnesses which are not of a substantial character.”

 Bench noted that considering the statement of the prosecutrix (PW2), a girl of nine years, corroboration from an independent source of the evidence of prosecutrix is not required. The evidence of the prosecutrix establishes that the appellant committed rape on her.

Court opined that the trial court did not commit any mistake in convicting the appellant for the offence under Section 376 IPC. Accordingly, appellant’s conviction was upheld.

Sentence

With regard to the question of sentence, Court stated that it may be mentioned that the protection of society by stamping out criminal activity is an essential function of State.

The facts and given circumstances of each case, the nature of the crime, the manner in which it was planned and committed, the motive for commission of the crime, the conduct of convict and all other attending circumstances are relevant facts for imposing appropriate sentence.

Hence, the object of sentencing is that the offenders do not go unpunished and the justice be done to the victim of crime and society. It is, therefore, the duty of every court to award proper sentence having regard to the nature of the offence and the manner in which it was executed or committed.

Therefore, in the instant case, Court held that the interest of justice would be met if the sentence imposed by trial court would be modified to that of rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and to pay a fine of Rs 2,000.

Concluding the decision, Court in view of the above discussion dismissed the appeal. [Prem Chamar v. State of U.P., Criminal Appeal No. 1078 of 2012, decided on 22-01-2021]

Hot Off The PressNews

NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance on alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl in Umaria city of Madhya Pradesh and has directed issuance of notice to the Chief Secretary and the Director-General of Police, Madhya Pradesh calling for a detailed report in the matter.

As mentioned in the news report, the 13-year-old girl was abducted on 04.01.2021 from a market in Umaria city of Madhya Pradesh by a person known to her and later on she was taken to a secluded place and was subjected to rape by nine persons for two days. The girl was again abducted by one of the accused on 11.01.2021 and was taken to a desolate place where five people, including three accused in the previous incident and two unidentified truck drivers allegedly subjected her to rape for two days. The report also revealed that the victim was threatened with dire consequences due to which, she did not report the matter to the police. The mother of the girl has lodged a police complaint on January 14, following which seven of the accused have been arrested and the search of the remaining two is under way.

The gruesome incident puts a question mark towards law and order situation in the region. The perpetrators in this case, have committed the heinous crime twice, without having any fear of law violating human rights of the victim.

The Commission has opined that this is a case of violation of human rights of the victim and it is apparent that the law enforcing agencies who are expected to provide a safe environment to the citizen, have failed in exercising their lawful duty.

The Commission has called for a detailed report in the matter within 4 weeks. The report must include details regarding arrest of the remaining accused persons, counseling given to the victim as well as relief and rehabilitation provided or proposed to be provided to the victim by the State authorities.


Nationa Human Rights Commission

[Press Release dt. 18-01-2021]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Lahore High Court: While deliberating upon the writ petitions challenging the use and conduct of ‘virginity tests’ especially “Two-finger Test” and “Hymen Examination” in cases of rape and sexual abuse, Ayesha A. Malik, J., held that the virginity tests, carried out for the purposes of ascertaining the virginity of female rape or sexual abuse victim, is unscientific and has no medical basis, therefore it is of no forensic value in cases of sexual violence. It was further held that the virginity tests offend the personal dignity of the female victim and therefore is against the right to life and right to dignity enshrined in Articles 9 and 14 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973.

 Contentions: The petitions were brought before the Court by a group of diverse women, who have been working in the public sphere and one of the members of the National Assembly of Pakistan. They stated before the Court that the virginity tests are done upon a victim in order to ascertain whether they are sexually active. The petitioners put forth the following contentions –

  • There is no medical or scientific basis to continue with virginity testing; that it violates the fundamental rights of the female victims such that it denies the female victim her fundamental rights of dignity and privacy that she is guaranteed under the Constitution.
  • After the omission of Section 151 (4) of the Qanun-e-Shahadat Order, 1984 under the Criminal Law (Amendment) (Offences Relating to Rape) Act, 2016, tests are irrelevant for the charge of rape or sexual abuse. The virginity tests are neither necessary nor reliable for the purpose of investigation into the incident of rape or sexual abuse.
  • Even though the consent of the victim is obtained before conducting the test, however the victim is neither aware of the reasons for carrying out either of the tests nor is she informed properly, with sufficient sensitivity, as to what the examination entails.
  • The medico-legal examination reports rely on words such as “habituated to sex” or “not a virgin” which are irrelevant for the purposes of the incident under investigation and such derogatory language stigmatizes the victim, causing social and personal trauma. There is not enough training with reference to the female medical officers appointed, who carry out the virginity tests and fill in the medico-legal report.
  • Pakistan is a signatory to several international treaties like UDHR, ICCPR, Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984 which denounce virginity testing. Moreover, Pakistan has also signed and ratified Convention Against Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 1979 (CEDAW), which prohibits all forms of discrimination against women and declares the two-finger test as discriminatory such that it amounts to a denial of rights to female victims of rape on the basis of her gender.

The respondents (Federation of Pakistan and Province of Punjab) did not dispute the contentions of the Petitioners to the extent that the two-finger test should not be conducted. They stated that the matter is under consideration with the competent authority and guidelines are in the process to be framed. It was clarified that the two-finger test is not conducted unless it is deemed necessary and that in cases of minor girls, it is mandatory to inspect the hymen in detail to determine whether it is intact and if not then the nature of the injury.

Upon perusal of the petitioners’ contentions and statements provided by the respondents vis-à-vis the prevalent scenario and after detailed scrutiny of the relevant Guidelines/ SOPs; the Court observed the Guidelines for the Examination of Female Survivors/Victims of Sexual Abuse, 2020 still calls for a virginity test albeit by confusing the issue rather forbidding it (it allows a “per-vaginum examination” where required and per-vaginum examination is understood to mean the two finger test). It was noted that a bare reading of 2020 Guidelines makes it clear that the process of virginity testing through two fingers or hymen examination are standardized and form the basis of the medical officer’s opinion or the court’s opinion on the virtue and character of the victim. Regarding the use of phrases like “habituated to sex” and “not a virgin” in medico-legal reports the Court noted that, “Often enough the opinion of the medical officer is carried into the judgments of the court and language such ashabituated to sex”, “women of easy virtue”, “habitual to sexual intercourse”, “indulging in sexual activities” are used to describe the victim. The basis being that a woman habituated to sex is likely to have raised a false charge of rape or sexual abuse”.

The High Court also referred to several decisions rendered by the Indian courts, most notably the Supreme Court of India’s judgment in Lillu v. State of Haryana, (2013) 14 SCC 643, wherein it was held that- the two finger test and its interpretation violates the right of rape survivors to privacy, physical and mental integrity and dignity; therefore, this test, even if the report is affirmative, cannot ipso facto, be given rise to presumption of consent. Judgments delivered by Allahabad HC in Akhtar v. State of U.P., 2014 SCC OnLine All 8922 and Gujarat HC in State of Gujarat v. Rameshchandra Ramabhai Panchal, 2020 SCC OnLine Guj 114  were also referred to.

It was also noted that Pakistan has signed and ratified several relevant International Treaties which cast an obligation upon the Government to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to prevent carrying out virginity testing, as globally it is accepted that virginity testing does not establish the offence of rape or sexual abuse nor does past sexual conduct have any relevance in the medico-legal examination which aims to collect evidence on the charge of sexual violence.

Judge noted that, “Virginity testing is highly invasive, having no scientific or medical requirement, yet carried out in the name of medical protocols in sexual violence cases. It is a humiliating practice. If the victim, is found to not be a virgin, it cannot and does not suggest that she was not raped or sexually abused. What it does is place the victim on trial in place of the accused and shifts the focus on her virginity status. In this regard, the victim’s sexual behaviour is totally irrelevant as even the most promiscuous victim does not deserve to be raped, nor should the incident of sexual violence be decided on the basis of a virginity test. It is a blatant violation of the dignity of a woman. The conclusion drawn from these tests about a woman’s sexual history and character is a direct attack on her dignity and leads to adverse effects on the social and cultural standing of a victim”.

With the aforementioned observations, the Court made the following declarations-

  • Virginity tests are discriminatory against the female victim as they are carried out on the basis of their gender, therefore offends Article 25 of the Constitution, 1973.
  • To the extent that the 2020 Guidelines, SOPs and the 2015 Instructions mandate the virginity tests are declared to be illegal and against the Constitution and the Federation and Provincial Government should take necessary steps to ensure that virginity tests are not carried out in medico-legal examination of the victims of rape and sexual abuse.
  • The Provincial Government should devise appropriate medico-legal protocols and guidelines, along with standard operating procedures, in line with international practice that recognize and manage sensitively the care of victims of sexual violence.

[Sadaf Aziz v. Federation of Pakistan, WP No. 13537 of 2020, decided on 04-01-2021]


Sucheta Sarkar, Editorial Assistant has put this story together


Image Credits: DAWN

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a 20-year-old case relating to rape of a 6-year-old, the 3-judge bench of RF Nariman*, Navin Sinha and KM Joseph, JJ has dismissed the special leave petition filed by the convict, thereby rejecting the contention that since the petitioner has only one hand, it would be physically impossible to have committed an act of rape. The Court said that there is no such impossibility.

Senior Advocate R. Basant had argued before the Court that the case was made out against the convict only under Section 376(1) and not under Section 376(2), however, after perusing the charges framed, the Court noticed that the charge was not only under Section 376(1) IPC, but was under Section 376, which includes Section 376(2).

Further, there was a concurrent finding of the Court below of facts that the victim, who was only 6 years old, was raped by the petitioner. Apart from the victim’s testimony, there was also the testimony of her mother, who was an eye witness to the incident. The petitioner was over 18 years old and was found to be potent. His lungi was recovered and he himself absconded, having been captured after 15 days of the incident.

While dismissing the Special Leave Petition, the Court said,

“Considering that the State has not filed an appeal and that the incident has taken place 20 years ago, we dismiss the special leave petition, without going into Section 376(2) and whether a case is made out on facts for reducing the minimum punishment of 10 years.”

[Seelan v. Inspector of Police,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 1028, decided on 16.12.2020]


*Justice RF Nariman ahs penned this judgment. Read more about him here.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Orissa High Court: S.K. Sahoo J. allowed the appeal in part setting aside conviction under Sections 376/511, 354 and 457 of  Penal Code, 1860 and upholding conviction under Section 448 IPC.

The facts of the case are such that on 03-10-1989 at about 9.30 p.m. while the victim/informant was sleeping with her younger brother in one room of her house and her elder brother Jubaraj Nag and his elder brother’s wife Jayanti Nag were sleeping in the adjacent room, the appellant entered into the room where the victim was sleeping by opening the bamboo door of the victim’s room, disrobed her saree and attempted to commit rape on her. Hearing hullah of the victim, the elder brother and his wife came inside her room. The appellant tried to conceal himself underneath a raised platform inside the bedroom but the victim, as well as his elder brother, assaulted him by firewood. Due to tussle of the appellant with the victim, the bangles of the victim were broken and were lying underneath the cot. Then the brothers of the appellant came and took him to their house. FIR was lodged against the appellant under Sections 457 and 354 of the Penal Code, 1860 i.e. IPC. The appellant Satrughana Nag faced trial in the Court of learned Additional Sessions Judge, Titilagarh for offences punishable under Sections 376/ 511, 354 and 457 of the IPC. The learned trial Court vide impugned judgment and order dated 17-03-1990, found the appellant guilty of the offences charged and sentenced him accordingly. Aggreived by the same, instant appeal was filed.

Counsel for the appellants submitted that there are certain improbability features in the prosecution case which create doubt that the appellant attempted to commit rape on the victim rather the victim appears to be a consenting party and when she was caught in a compromising position with the appellant by her family members, she reacted and brought false accusation against the appellant just to save her own skin.

Counsel for the respondents submitted that evidence of the victim is clear, cogent and trustworthy, that in itself is sufficient to convict the appellant.

The Court based on the evidence put on record and the witnesses submissions observed that it is the settled principle of law that if the statement of the prosecutrix is found to be worthy of credence and reliable, then it requires no corroboration and the Court can act on such testimony and convict the accused. There may be compelling reasons in some cases which may necessitate looking for corroboration to the statement of the prosecutrix. The evidence of the prosecutrix is more reliable than that of an injured witness. Minor contradictions or insignificant discrepancies in the statement of the prosecutrix should not be a ground to discard her version, if it inspires confidence. Corroboration to the testimony of the prosecutrix is not a requirement of law but a guidance of prudence under the given circumstances. The very nature of offence makes it difficult to get direct corroborating evidence.

The Court further observed on the issue of whether victim was a consenting party or not and stated that law is well settled that even in the absence of a specific defence of consent being taken by an accused charged with the offence of rape, if the evidence on record indicates that the victim was a consenting party, then the Court can always take the view that the sexual intercourse with the prosecutrix was not against her will but with her consent. Whether there was consent or not, is to be ascertained only on a careful study of all relevant circumstances. An inference as to consent can be drawn only basing on evidence or probabilities of the case. ‘Consent’ is stated to be an act of reason coupled with deliberation. It denotes an active will in mind of a person to permit the doing of the act complained of. If the victim fails to offer sufficient resistance, the Court may find that there was no force or threat of force or the act was not against her will. ‘Consent’ does not mean submission under the influence of fear or terror. There must be an exercise of intelligence based on knowledge of its significance and moral quality and there must be choice between resistance and assent. If the woman resists to a point whereafter further resistance would be useless or until her resistance is overcome by force or violence, submission thereafter is not consent. Verbal resistance apart, the woman can give effective obstacles by means of hands, limbs and pelvic muscles. Resistance by any or more of these will amount to resistance in the eye of law. A mere act of helpless resignation in the face inevitable compulsion, acquiescence, non-resistance or passive giving in, when volitional faculty is either clouded by fear or vitiated byduress, cannot be deemed to be a consent, as envisaged in law.

The Court thus held that the victim’s version in the Court was of rape but when it is compared with the one given during investigation, certain irreconcilable discrepancies are noticed. The evidence regarding actual commission of rape is at variance from what was recorded by police during evidence. Therefore, the victim cannot be said to be a truthful witness. It was further held that coming to the charge of attempt to commit rape, the reaction of the victim at the time of occurrence and immediately thereafter are very relevant features, but its absence is not always a decisive factor. As per examination and records it is clear that there were many opportunities earlier for the victim to raise shout and protest but she did not do that.

In view of the above, the conviction of the appellant under Sections 376/511 and 354 of IPC was held to not be sustainable in the eye of law however; there are enough materials to make out an offence of house18 trespass as defined under Section 442 of IPC which is punishable under Section 448 of IPC.

The court thus allowing the appeal in part held conviction of the appellant under Sections 376/511, 354 and 457 of  IPC is hereby set aside, instead the appellant is convicted under Section 448 of the IPC and sentenced to undergo imprisonment for the period already undergone by him.[Satrughana Nag v. State of Odisha, 2020 SCC OnLine Ori 885, decided on 11-12-2020]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of Sadhana S. Jadhav and N.J. Jamadar, JJ., observed a matter wherein an adolescent girl who was employed as a maid to earn a livelihood was sexually harassed by the son of her owner.

Appellant was convicted for the offence punishable under Section 376 of the Penal Code, 1860 by the Lower Court.

Factual Matrix

X, a helpless adolescent girl was working as a maid servant to earn her livelihood. She had approached the police station to lodge an FIR.

She alleged that her father had got her employed as a maid with Jahangir owner of Hotel Sai-Village at Shirdi. Mr Jahangir’s wife and two children i.e. present accused 1 and his sister Farhad were original residents of Geeta Bhavan, Bombay. Jahangir’s wife, i.e. accused 2 had brought X to Bombay to work at their residence. After a few days, the sister of the victim was also employed with the mother of accused 2.

Victim alleged that she was molested and ravished by accused 1. Due to fear and apprehension she couldn’t disclose the whole truth to accused 2 and hence ended up stating that she was being teased by accused 1.

She also had conceived pregnancy from accused 1. All efforts to abort the foetus were taken by accused 2. Later she was admitted to Asha Sadan after which she was admitted to hospital and gave birth to a child. Accused 2 asked the victim to leave the child at Asha Sadan but the victim refused to do so.

Hence she was allowed to take the child along.

Victim’s child was snatched by the sister of accused 2 with the assurance that it would be returned in a few months.

Accused 2 kept harassing the victim and did not allow her to return to her native place. Thereafter, the victim somehow eloped from the place and returned to her native place and lodged the FIR.

Analysis and Decision

Bench while considering the facts and circumstances of the matter, stated that it is a settled law that the evidence of rape victim stands at par with the injured witness.

Court held that evidence of the victim of sexual offence deserves to be considered with great weightage. The facts and circumstances corroborate the evidence of the victim and leave no room for suspicion that the victim was ravished by none other than the accused 1.

A rape victim is left with a feeling of degradation, humiliation and guilt for the whole life.

Offence of rape is a heinous offence which cannot be viewed with any leniency. Once the Court finds the evidence of victim to be trustworthy, conviction would follow and said conviction should be followed by a sentence proportionate to the gravity of the offence. Social position of the accused is totally irrelevant.

Supreme Court has time and again said that the society cannot look upon a woman with derision, depravity, contempt and as an object of desire.

Demise of the Child

Court observed in the instant case that, the injury sustained by a rape victim is not just a physical injury, but an injury to her womanhood. She is forced to live with indignation throughout her life and in the present case, she had given birth to a child who lived with her for hardly 6 days and thereafter, the child was brutally snatched, abandoned and had died.

A scar on the Victim

Victim was not even informed of the demise of her child, but the said injury would definitely leave a scar on her further development as a person.

It is not just a physical injury, but injury to the soul of a victim. In the present case, Ms X had attained motherhood at a young age of 15 years.

Hence, in view of the above, appeal deserves to be dismissed.

Further, Criminal Appeal No. 919 of 2006 was filed by the State with regard to meager sentence imposed upon accused 1 despite his conviction for an offence punishable under Section 376 IPC.

The Court is duty-bound to assign special and adequate reason for imposing a sentence lesser than the minimum.

Heinous Offence

Bench stated that High Courts cannot be oblivious of the impact of such a heinous offence.

The object of deterrence in the commission of such heinous offence cannot be lost sight of while sentencing. Once the accused is convicted, the victim also deserves justice.

Dishonour of a woman needs to be eliminated and judicial pronouncement, which imposes a disproportionately lenient sentence, needs to be set aside.

Sessions Court had acquitted the accused 1 despite there being material evidence. Therefore, it was incumbent upon the State to file an appeal against acquittal, in view of the fact that the victim was subjected to harassment, she was brutally assaulted, she was forced to abandon her child, which in fact is an offence punishable under Section 317 IPC.

While parting with the decision, Court stated that the quantum of sentence of the accused convicted under Section 376 IPC cannot be viewed with leniency. Hence, the sentence imposed upon the respondent/accused 1 deserves to be enhanced and appeal for enhancement deserves to be allowed. [Faiyaz v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 3561, decided on 08-12-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

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

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Vibhu Bakhru, J., observed that If an HIV positive person is aware of their condition and has unprotected sex, the person can be punished under Section 270 of Penal Code, 1860.

Appellant was convicted by the trial court under Sections 376/313/307 of Penal Code, 1860.

Appellant was found guilty of raping his stepdaughter and since the appellant was found to be infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV Positive) and was convicted for an offence punishable under Section 307 of IPC — attempt to murder.

Trial Court also observed that since the appellant was aware that his acts could result in transmitting the potentially lethal disease, he had knowingly committed an act, which if resulted in transmitting of HIV and consequently, the death of the victim from that disease, it would amount to murder.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Conviction for Rape — offence punishable under Section 376 of IPC

Whether there is any doubt that the appellant is guilty of committing an offence punishable under Section 376 IPC?

Considering that the prosecutrix gave varied statements at various points of time and had changed her stand on oath. The testimony of the prosecutrix could not be considered as wholly reliable and the trial court erred in proceeding on the said basis. However, Court also denied accepting that she was a wholly unreliable witness.

Further, in view of the above Court stated that it would be unsafe to rely on the testimony of the prosecutrix without any corroborative evidence and hence solely on her testimony, the appellant cannot be convicted.

Bench made another observation that,

in the instant case, there is unimpeachable corroborative evidence that the petitioner had raped the prosecutrix. The DNA Fingerprints of the Products of Conception and the DNA Fingerprints generated from the blood sample of the petitioner conclusively established that the appellant was the biological father of the abortus.

Repeatedly Raped

It is also material to note that the prosecutrix had in the first instance, when she was brought to the Community Care Centre, reported to the nurse that her stepfather had been repeatedly establishing physical relations with her and had been sexually abusing her in front of her siblings.

Even the medical report recorded:

“Repeated Rape by HIV positive stepfather after the death of mother suffering from HIV/AIDS in Jan 2011. Patient was overdue by one week in April 2011 when she was given an injection to get back her periods back. She bled with clots and pieces. UPT done showing pregnancy positive result.”

High Court concurred with the decision of the trial court that the evidence obtained in the present case clearly established beyond any reasonable doubt that the appellant had engaged in sexual intercourse with prosecutrix without her consent and had committed an offence punishable under Section 376 IPC.

Conviction for causing miscarriage – offence punishable under Section 313 IPC

Whether it is established that the appellant is guilty of committing an offence punishable under Section 313 of the IPC?

Trial Court had held that the appellant was guilty of causing miscarriage to the prosecutrix by administering her pills. It is relevant to note that though the prosecutrix was in Sneh Sadan when she was allegedly administered pills by the appellant and the same was allegedly informed to doctors immediately, no action was taken by any of the doctors in this regard.

Bench stated that there is no material to indicate as to what pills were administered to the prosecutrix. Although three medical doctors were examined, none of them mentioned that in their opinion the prosecutrix‘s miscarriage was induced by the said pills.

Hence, the Court stated that there was no description of the pills allegedly administered to the prosecutrix. There is nothing on record to remotely indicate as to what was the substance that was allegedly administered to the prosecutrix.

Court was of the view that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the appellant had committed the offence of causing the prosecutrix‘s miscarriage. Therefore, the appellant‘s conviction for committing an offence under Section 313 of the IPC could not be sustained.

Conviction for an attempt to murder – offence punishable under Section 307 IPC

Bench did not concur with the view that the appellant was guilty of an offence punishable under Section 307 IPC for several reasons.

Firstly, that the import of holding so would also mean that any sexual activity by a person infected by HIV is punishable under Section 307 of the IPC, notwithstanding that his or her partner has consented to such sexual activity. This is because the culpable act under Section 307 of the IPC does not cease to be one if the victim of such an act has also consented to the same.

Secondly, the trial court had drawn support for its conclusion by mentioning that several countries prosecute cases of transmission of HIV and non-disclosure of HIV status. However, the court had not examined the specific provisions or the rationale used in various jurisdictions for prosecuting non-disclosure of HIV positive status as general offences.

In cases of actual transmission where an HIV Negative person acquires the said disease as a result of engaging in any sexual activity with an HIV Positive partner, the offender is prosecuted for causing bodily harm.

In certain cases where an HIV Positive person fails to disclose his status and engages in any sexual activity, he/she may be prosecuted for sexual assault as in such cases, the consent of the other person to engage in sexual intercourse is vitiated and the sexual act can be construed as one without consent.

In cases of sexual assault or rape, it is widely accepted that the HIV Positive status of the offender is an aggravating factor to be considered while sentencing the offender.

Thirdly, on a plain reading of Section 307 of IPC, an offence under Section 307 IPC is not made out.

Section 307 of the IPC punishes any act which is done by a person with such intention or knowledge and under the circumstances that by that act cause death, the persons committing such act would be guilty of murder.

Bench observed that clearly, in the facts of the present case, the appellant had not raped the prosecutrix with an intention of causing her death.

According to the prosecution, the appellant was lonely after the death of his wife and he had sexually preyed on his stepdaughter (as allegedly disclosed by him in his disclosure statement).

It is relevant to note that one of the key ingredients of the second, third and fourth limb of Section 300 of the IPC is that the culpable act is so inherently dangerous as is likely to cause death; or is sufficient in the normal course of nature to cause death; or in all probability, it would cause death.

The assumption that penetrative sexual assault would in all probability lead to transmission of the disease, which in all probability would result in the death of a healthy partner is not established. In the facts of the present case, no evidence whatsoever was led to establish the probability of the prosecutrix being transmitted the said disease.

In the given circumstances, the decision of the Trial Court is largely based on surmises and impressions, without analysis of any scientific data to assume that sexual intercourse by an HIV positive patient would in all probability lead to the demise of his partner.

Fourthly, the appellant was medically examined and there is no evidence to indicate that he was a carrier of Herpes Simplex Virus. Thus, there is no evidence that the appellant would have transmitted the said disease to the prosecutrix.

Lastly, this Court is of the view that the Trial Court had erred in proceeding on the basis that provisions of Section 270 of the IPC would not be applicable.

In Supreme Court’s decision of Mr ‘X’ v. Hospital ‘Z’: (1998) 8 SCC 296, a case was considered where the respondent hospital had disclosed that the appellant was HIV positive to his fiancé. As a result of such disclosure, the appellant‘s marriage to his fiancé was called off. Appellant instituted an action to recover damages on the ground that the information regarding his HIV positive status was required to be kept secret under medical ethics and was disclosed illegally. The appellant pleaded that since the hospital had breached its duty to maintain confidentiality, they were liable to pay damages to the appellant.

“…the reasoning that unprotected sexual engagement by an HIV positive person, who is aware of the nature of his disease, can be termed as a negligent act, which he knows is likely to spread the infection of a disease that endangers life and is thus, liable to be punished under Section 270 of the IPC is persuasive and cannot be faulted.”

Court opined that even if the Trial Court was of the view that it would not be apposite to frame charges under Section 270 of the IPC, the same did not necessarily warrant that charges be framed under Section 307 of IPC.

In view of the above, the impugned judgment to the extent that it convicts the appellant for committing an offence punishable under Section 376 of the IPC was upheld.

Punishment for offences under Sections 313 and 307 of IPC was set aside. [Sabhajeet Maurya v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2020 SCC OnLine Del 1525, decided on 26-11-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: B. Pugalendhi, J., while partly allowing the appeal modified the offence to fall under Section 354 of the Penal Code 1860 from Section 377 IPC.

The instant appeal was filed against the conviction and sentence imposed on the appellant.

Trial Court found the appellant not guilty for the offence under Section 376 of Penal Code, 1860 but found him to be guilty for the offence under Section 377 IPC.

Appellant filed the instant appeal against the trial court’s decision.

Prosecutions’ Case

Victim who has been stated to be partially deaf and completely dumb was aged 37 years at the time of occurrence and also unmarried.

While the victim was taking bath in the pump set, the accused went behind and hugged her with an intention to commit rape.

Analysis

Though the accused attempted to rape the victim girl, she escaped from such an attempt.

Considering the evidence of the Doctor [PW8] that there was no external injury, other than the injury noted in the shoulder of the victim and also considering the evidence of the Doctor [PW8] and the certificate issued by the Doctor, this Court opined that the said act of the appellant would fall under Section 354 IPC and not under Section 377 IPC.

Bench noted that no material on record was placed to show that the accused had committed an unnatural offence.

PW4 an innocent victim thwarted on the accused, the moment he hugged her from back and therefore, she did not suffer any injury on her private parts.

“Section 375 IPC: Rape

A man is said to commit ‘rape’ who, except in the case hereinafter excepted, has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the six following descriptions:—

First — Against her will.

Secondly — Without her consent.

Thirdly — With her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her or any person in whom she is interested in fear of death or of hurt.

Fourthly — With her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband, and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married.

Fifthly — With her consent, when, at the time of giving such consent, by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication or the administration by him personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome substance, she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gives consent.

Sixthly — With or without her consent, when she is under sixteen years of age.”

Section 377 IPC deals with the unnatural offence.

In accordance with the medical evidence, the victim girl suffered an abrasion on her shoulder in the scuffle to protect her from the accused, but no injury on her private parts was caused.

In view of the above, the question for consideration was whether the said act of the accused would amount to the commission of offence under Section 377 or 375 IPC or will it fall under Section 354 IPC?

Court held that the overt act attributed as against the accused does not fall under the ingredients for the offence under Sections 375 or 377 IPC. Whereas, the appellant attempted to outrage the modesty of the victim, who is partially deaf and dumb.

Section 354 IPC: Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty

“Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both”.

In view of the above position, Supreme Court’s decision in Aman Kumar v. State of Haryana, (2004) 4 SCC 379 was referred.

Supreme Court’s decision in Tarkeshwar Sahu v. State of Bihar (Now Jharkhand), (2006) SCC 8 560 was referred in regard to the issue that in the absence of charge under any other section, whether the accused should be acquitted or convicted for outraging the modesty of a woman. In this decision of the Supreme Court, Section 222 of the CrPC was invoked, which provides that in a case where the accused is charged with a major offence and the said charge is not proved, the accused may be convicted of the minor offence, though he was not charged with it.

In the present case, Court states that though the appellant was prosecuted for the offence under Section 376 IPC, he was convicted and sentenced for the offence under Section 377 IPC.

In view of the occurrence of the incident, the Court held that the said act of the appellant as discussed above would fall under Section 354 IPC.

Hence the appeal was partly allowed. [Vairamuthu v. State, Crl. A (MD) No. 357 of 2015, decided on 01-10-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Vinay Joshi, J., altered the conviction for rape and penetrative sexual assault to an act of aggravated form of sexual assault punishable under Section 10 of the POCSO Act in light of touching the breast of the child.

Appellant aged 67 years was convicted under Sections 376 and 450 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Sections 4 and 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO).

Accused was acquitted from the charge of committing offence punishable under Section 377 IPC.  Accused challenged the conviction in the instant appeal.

Informant was residing along with his family members, including his daughter/victim girl aged 8 years. Two sons of the informant had been to their school and the minor victim was alone at the house as she was ill. In the afternoon the informant returned to his house for lunch and found that the house was locked from within, therefore, he peeped from the window and saw that appellant by lifting frock of the victim was moving his hand on her neck, cheek and chest.

Later, the informant shouted to open the door and hurriedly left the place. Victim disclosed that the accused moved his hand on her body, kissed her as well as put his finger in his anal part.

In regard to the above reference, informant lodged a report against the said incident.

Special Judge framed charge under relevant provisions of IPC and POCSO Act further on the appreciation of evidence held that the prosecution succeeded in proving the offence punishable under Sections 376 and 450 IPC, Sections 4 and 6 of the POCSO Act.

The prosecution case, in short, is about rape and aggravated penetrative sexual assault by the accused on a minor victim aged 8 years.

Analysis and Decision

Bench stated that the act of accused of touching the breast of the victim with sexual intent amounts to an aggravated form of sexual assault, which is punishable under Section 10 of the POCSO Act.

Since the medical evidence nowhere supported that there was insertion or penetration of finger into the anal region, it is doubtful whether the accused penetrated his finger into the anal region of the victim.

If two view emerges from the situation, the view favourable to the accused would take precedence. On mere assumption or possibility, the accused cannot be convicted.

 All the sexual assaults on children below 12 years amount to an aggravated form of sexual assault.

With regard to the age of the accused, which is near about 70 years, the imprisonment of 5 years would meet the ends of justice. From the set of circumstances laid down, it is clear that the house-trespass was merely in order to commit an offence punishable with imprisonment, which is punishable under Section 451 of the Penal Code, 1860.

In view of the above, criminal appeal as partly allowed.

Conviction under Section 376 of IPC and Sections 4 and 6 of the POCSO Act, is hereby quashed and set aside, instead the accused was convicted for the offence punishable under Section 10 of the POCSO Act and.

Further, instead of conviction under Section 450 IPC, the appellant is convicted for the offence punishable under Section 451 of the IPC.

Hence appellant will be entitled to set off under Section 428 of the CrPC. [Tukaram Ashruji Khandare v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 2802, decided on 22-10-2020]


Advocate for the appellant, R.V. Gahilot and H.R. Dhumale, A.P.P. for the respondent.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a chilling case where a 21-year-old man was sentenced to death under Sections 302 and to life imprisonment under 376A of IPC for raping and killing his 2.5 years-old niece, the 3-judge bench of Justice UU Lalit*, Indu Malhotra and Krishna Murari, JJ has commuted the punishment to life imprisonment for the offence punishable under Section 302 IPC and to that of rigorous imprisonment for 25 years for the offence punishable under Section 376A IPC. The Court also affirmed the conviction and sentence recorded by the Courts below for the offences punishable under Section 376(1), (2)(f), (i) and (m) of IPC, and under Section 6 of the POCSO Act.


Sentencing under Section 302 IPC


The Court found the Appellant guilty of having committed the offence of culpable homicide amounting to murder under Section 300 IPC Fourthly. In such cases, according to the Court, it is very rare that the death sentence is awarded.

Considering the age of the victim i.e 2.5 years, the Court said that the accused must have known the consequence that his sexual assault on the child would cause death or such bodily injury as was likely to cause her death.

“The evidence on record also depicts an exceptional case where two and half years old girl was subjected to sexual assault. The assault was accompanied by bites on the body of the victim. The rape was of such intensity that there was merging of vaginal and anal orifices of the victim. The age of the victim, the fact that the Appellant was a maternal uncle of the victim and the intensity of the assault make the present case an exceptional one.”

However, it could not be held that the appellant consciously caused any injury with the intent to extinguish the life of the victim. Though all the injuries are attributable to him, his conviction under Section 302 IPC is not under any of the first three clauses of Section 300 IPC.


Sentencing under Section 376A IPC


The case at hand was a peculiar one as the offence was committed just a week after the amended Section 376A was brought into force in the year 2013. Hence, the question before the Court was whether awarding life imprisonment in the present case would mean “the remainder of that person’s natural life or with death” or not.

Two important conclusions were made by the Court:

  • The ex-post facto effect given to Section 376A inserted by the Amendment Act would not in any way be inconsistent with sub-Article (1) of Article 20 of the Constitution.
  • In view of the fact that Section 376A IPC was brought on the statute book just few days before the commission of the offence, the Appellant does not deserve death penalty or life imprisonment for the remainder of his life for said offence, however, considering the nature and enormity of the offence, the appropriate punishment for the offence under Section 376A IPC must be rigorous imprisonment for a term of 25 years.

To understand what led to this conclusion, let’s first take a look at the legislative developments that took place around the time when the crime was committed:

  • On 03.02.2013, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013 was promulgated by the President of India which substituted Sections 375, 376 and 376A of IPC;
  • The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 received the assent of the President and was published on 02.04.2013 but was given retrospective effect from 03.02.2013.
  • The offence was committed on 11.02.2013 when the provisions of the Ordinance were in force

Here’s what the coming into force of the Ordinance and subsequently the Amendment Act meant:

  • Before 03.02.2013, the offence under Section 375 could be committed against a woman. The Ordinance sought to make the provision gender neutral and this gender-neutral provision remained in force from 03.02.2013 till 02.04.2020. However, the earlier position was restored through the Amendment Act.
  • Before 03.02.2013, the sentence for an offence under Section 376(1) could not be less than seven years but the maximum sentence could be life imprisonment; and for an offence under Section 376(2) the minimum sentence could not be less than ten years while the maximum sentence could be imprisonment for life. Section 376A dealt with cases where a man committed non-consensual sexual intercourse with his wife in certain situations.
  • As a result of the Ordinance, the sentences for offences under Sections 376(1) and (2) were retained in the same fashion. However, a new provision in the form of Section 376A was incorporated under which, if while committing an offence punishable under sub- section (1) or sub-section (2) of Section 376, a person “inflicts an injury which causes the death” of the victim, the accused could be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term “which shall not be less than 20 years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, which shall mean the remainder of that person’s natural life or with death”. Thus, for the first time, Death Sentence could be imposed if a fatal injury was caused during the commission of offence under subsection (1) or (2) of Section 376.
  • Though the provisions of the Amendment Act restored the original non gender-neutral position vis-à-vis the victim, it made certain changes in sub-section (2) of Section 376. Now, the punishment for the offence could be rigorous imprisonment for not less than ten years which could extend to imprisonment for life, “which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life”. It was, thus, statutorily made clear that the imprisonment for life would mean till the last breath of that person’s natural life.
  • Similarly, by virtue of the Amendment Act, for the offence under Section 376A, the punishment could not be less than 20 years which may extend to imprisonment for life which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life, or with death.

In the present case, when the crime was committed, the victim was about two and half years of age and the Ordinance which was holding the field. However, the sentence prescribed by Section 376(2) as amended by the Amendment Act, provided that the imprisonment for life “shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life”. In such a case, the Court was posed with the question that whether such ex-post facto prescription would be consistent with the provisions of sub-Article (1) of Article 20 of the Constitution.”

The Court explained,

“An imposition of life sentence simpliciter does not put any restraints on the power of the executive to grant remission and commutation in exercise of its statutory power, subject of course to Section 433A of the Code. But, a statutory prescription that it “shall mean the remainder of that person’s life” will certainly restrain the executive from exercising any such statutory power and to that extent the concerned provision definitely prescribes a higher punishment ex-post facto. In the process, the protection afforded by Article 20(1) of the Constitution would stand negated.”

It was further held that since Section 376A as amended by the Ordinance being gender neutral so far as victim was concerned, naturally covered cases where a victim was a woman, hence, the ex-post facto effect given to Section 376A by the Amendment Act from the day the Ordinance was promulgated, would not in way be inconsistent with the provisions of sub-Article (1) of Article 20 of the Constitution.

It was, hence, declared that the punishment under Section 376(2) of the IPC in the present case cannot come with stipulation that the life imprisonment “shall mean the remainder of that person’s life”.

[Shatrughna Baban Meshram v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 901, decided on 02.11.2020]


*Justice UU Lalit has penned this judgment

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has, “in order to allay all apprehensions and only as a confidence building measure”, directed that the security to the victim’s family and the witnesses in the Hathras Gang Rape case shall be provided by the CRPF within a week.


BACKGROUND OF THE CASE


The case pertains to the brutal gang-rape and assault of a 19-year¬old girl, resident of Hathras village in Uttar Pradesh. Though she was shifted to Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi, she breathed her last and she was cremated in the middle of the night without the presence of her family members. Considering the manner in which the entire incident had taken place, the petitioners contended that a fair investigation would be possible only if the matter is entrusted to an independent agency.

It was prayed that

  1. if need arises, the case be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation or SIT be formed to investigate the matter.
  2. a sitting or retired Supreme Court Judge or High Court Judge be appointed to look into the matter.
  3. the case be transferred from Hathras, Uttar Pradesh to Delhi.

Concerns were also raised by Senior Advocate Indira Jaising with regard to the adequate protection being provided to the victim’s family members and the witnesses. An affidavit filed by the Home Department, Uttar Pradesh on October 14, 2020 regarding the same which stated:

  • The parents, two brothers, one sister¬in-law and grandmother of the victim who are residing at village Chandpa, District Hathras, Uttar Pradesh have been provided protection under a three-fold protection mechanism through

(a) Armed Constabulary Component,

(b) Civil Police Component and

(c) Installation of CCTV cameras/lights.

  • The investigation by the CBI would be conducted under the supervision of the Court in a time bound manner.

The Director General of Police, State of Uttar Pradesh also filed an affidavit indicating   that   the   State   Government   itself   has   sought investigation by the CBI to be conducted under the supervision of the Court and on 10.10.2020 the CBI accepted the request of the State and has started investigation in respect of the crime, on 11.10.2020.


WHAT THE SUPREME COURT SAID


On the apprehension that the Uttar Pradesh Police will not conduct a proper and fair investigation

Considering the abovementioned facts, the Court noticed that the undisputed fact is that the investigation has in fact been entrusted  by the State Government itself to the CBI on 10.10.2020 and the CBI has started investigation in respect of the crime on 11.10.2020. Therefore, the apprehensions expressed by the petitioners/applicants that there would be no proper investigation if the Uttar Pradesh Police conducted the same would not remain open for consideration at this stage.

On Supreme Court Monitored Investigation

The Court further noticed that the Allahabad High Court has adequately delved into the aspects relating to the case to secure fair investigation and has also secured the presence of the father, mother, brother and sister-in-law of the victim and appropriate orders are being passed, including securing reports from various quarters. Hence, the Court did not find it necessary “to divest the High Court of the proceedings and take upon this Court to monitor the proceedings/investigation.”

Further, the incident having occurred within the jurisdiction of that High Court and all particulars being  available, it would be appropriate for the High Court to proceed to monitor the investigation in the manner in which it would desire.

“In that view, it would be open for the writ petitioners/applicants herein to seek to intervene in the matter before the High Court subject to consideration of such request by the High Court and if it finds the need to take into consideration the contentions to be urged by the petitioners/applicants   in that regard.”

It hence, directed that the CBI shall report to the High Court in the  manner as would be directed by the High Court through its orders from time to time.

On security to the victim’s family and witnesses

The Court noticed that though steps have been taken by the State Government to make adequate arrangement for security to the victim’s family and witnesses, however, in a matter of the present nature it is necessary to address the normal perception and pessimism which cannot be said as being without justification. Hence,

“without casting any aspersions on the security personnel of the State Police; in order to allay all apprehensions and only as a confidence building measure, we find it appropriate to direct that the security to the victim’s family and the witnesses shall be provided by the CRPF within a week from today.”

On transfer of case to Delhi

As indicated by advocate Seema Kushwaha, appearing for the victim’s family indicated that the need   for transfer would arise after the investigation is complete, the Court said that

“… it would be appropriate for investigating agency to complete the investigation and in any event since the local police have been divested of the investigation and the CBI is carrying out the investigation there would be no room for apprehensions at this stage. However, the issue as to whether the trial of the case is to be transferred is a matter which is kept open to be considered if need arises in future.”

On the name and relationship of the family members with the victim being depicted in the High Court’s order

Since it is a requirement of law to avoid such disclosure, the Supreme Court requested the High Court to delete the same and also morph the same in the digital records and avoid indication of such contents in future.

[Satyama Dubey v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 874, decided on 27.10.2020]

Hot Off The PressNews

The National Human Rights Commission issued notice to the Chief Secretary, Director General of Police and the Director-General of Prisons, Madhya Pradesh after taking suo motu cognizance about the allegations made by women on five cops for gang rape in lockup.

It is mentioned in the news report that a 20-year-old woman has levelled allegations that she was kept in lock-up for 10 days in the month of May this year and was subjected to rape by 5 police personnel including the Police Station Incharge and SDPO of Mangawan area of Rewa district of Madhya Pradesh. The woman, as mentioned in the news report, was an accused in a case of murder and presently she is lodged in judicial custody. The incident occurred in the month of May and it came to the knowledge of the District Judge after a period of five months. Even the prison warden did not have the courage to report the matter to the higher authorities.

It is further added that as alleged by the victim woman, she was subjected to rape between 09-05-2020 to 21-05-2020 while the police contradict, to be arrested on 21-05-2020. The female constable had protested at that time but she was rebuked by her seniors.

The Commission considered the vulnerable position of the victim. She was in police custody when she was allegedly subjected to utmost cruelty and sexual assault by the 5 police personnel. Even a protest made by a female police official went in vain. Very serious allegations have been levelled by the victim woman. Public servants from the law enforcement agencies, who are supposed to safeguard the citizens especially the women and the people from the vulnerable classes of the society have allegedly committed the heinous crime against a woman in their custody.

The Commission directs that the matter may be investigated by a senior police officer, not below the rank of the Deputy Inspector General of Police.


National Human Rights Commission

[Press Release dt. 19-10-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of UU Lalit, Vineet Saran and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ has held that no person is entitled to a copy of statement recorded under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 till the appropriate orders are passed by the court after the charge-sheet is filed.

“The right to receive a copy of such statement will arise only after cognizance is taken and at the stage contemplated by Sections 207 and 208 of the Code and not before.”


BACKGROUND OF THE CASE


The Court was hearing the case where

  • the father of the Appellant lodged a Complaint that he had seen a video of the Appellant on her Facebook account alleging that Swami Chinmayanand and some others had sexually exploited the Appellant and many other girls; that the Appellant was not contactable; that he was apprehending danger to the Appellant; and that prompt action be taken in the matter.
  • The said Facebook video having gone viral, letters were written to the Supreme Court by some advocates whereafter Suo Motu Writ Petition was registered. On 30.08.2019 it was reported that the Appellant was found in District Dausa of State of Rajasthan whereafter the Supreme Court recorded the statement of the Appellant that she did not intend to go back to Uttar Pradesh but would meet her parents in Delhi. Certain directions were therefore passed.
  • In its Order dated 02.09.2019, this Court directed the Chief Secretary, State of Uttar Pradesh, to constitute a Special Team to enquire into the grievances expressed by Miss “A” and insofar as the apprehension expressed by the parents of Miss “A”. It also directed the Chief Secretary, State of Uttar Pradesh, to direct the Superintendent of Police of the concerned district, namely, Shahjahanpur, to afford protection to the parents and family members of the girl on assessing the threat perception.
  • On 20.09.2019, Swamy Chinmayanand was arrested and his application for bail was rejected by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Shahjahanpur on 23.09.2019.
  • In November 2019, the High Court directed that trial court to provide a certified copy of the statement of victim recorded under Section 164 Cr.P.C. to the applicant subject to payment of usual charges.
  • Before the Appellant could challenge the decision of the High Court, by filing the instant Special Leave Petition on 13.11.2019, a copy of her statement recorded under Section 164 of the Code was made over to the accused.

WHAT THE COURT SAID


The Supreme Court noticed that the High Court completely erred in appreciating the directions issued by this Court, especially in a matter where the offences alleged against accused are of sexual exploitation.

“In such matters utmost confidentiality is required to be maintained. In our view, the High Court completely failed in that behalf.”

Explaining the Scheme of the relevant provisions of CrPC, the Court said that after the conclusion of the investigation, an appropriate report under Section 173 of the Code is to be filed by the police giving information as required by Section 173.

In terms of Section 190 of the Code, the concerned Magistrate may take cognizance of any offence inter alia upon a police report. At the stage of exercise of power under Section 190 of the Code, the Magistrate may deem fit that the matter requires further investigation on certain aspects/issues and may pass appropriate direction. It is only after taking of the cognizance and issuance of process that the accused is entitled, in terms of Sections 207 and 208 of the Code, to copies of the documents referred to in said provisions.

The filing of the charge-sheet by itself, does not entitle an accused to copies of any of the relevant documents including statement under Section 164 of the Code, unless the stages indicated above are undertaken. Thus, merely because the charge-sheet was filed by the time the High Court had passed the order in the present matter, did not entitle the accused to a copy of the statement under Section 164 of the Code.

Though, a copy of the statement recorded under Section 164 of the Code was made over to the accused, the Court set aside the order passed by the High Court and held that

“… under no circumstances copies of statements recorded under Section 164 of the Code can be furnished till appropriate orders are passed by the Court after taking cognizance in the matter.”

[Miss ‘A’ v. State of Uttar Pradesh,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 817, decided on 08.10.2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: A Division Bench of Rajan Roy and Jaspreet Singh, JJ., while taking suo motu cognizance of an extremely sensitive and important matter reminded itself of Mahatma Gandhi’s words and stated that,

This is a time to strengthen our resolve to live up to the ideas which “Bapu” stood for, but, unfortunately, ground realities are very different from the high values propagated and practiced by the Father of our Nation.

Bench stated that the matter touches upon the basic human/fundamental rights of the citizens of the country and residents based on certain newspaper items and programs shown in the media, according to which a young 19-year-old girl in Hathras was subjected to gang rape.

The perpetrators had broken her bones and mutilated her tongue.

The victim fought for her life for almost 2 weeks but ultimately she succumbed to death on 29-09-2020.

Court stated that the incidents which happened after the victim’s death leading up to her cremation have shocked their conscience.

In view of the above, the bench has taken suo mou cognizance of the matter.

Cremation performed forcibly and without consent of family members

As per the media reports, the dead body of the victim was taken to her native village but the Court was pained and shocked to note that the same was not handed over to the family members and the body of the victim was cremated with the help of some other persons.

The family members kept demanding for the body and informed that as per their traditions, the cremation cannot be taken place after sunset, yet the District Authorities got the cremation performed contrary to the traditions.

Allegation of High Handedness by State Authorities

Court added that the matter is of grave importance as it involves an allegation of high handedness by the State Authorities resulting in violation of the basic human and fundamental rights of both the deceased and her family.

Court in view of the present matter, referred to the decision of Supreme Court in Parmanand Katara v. Union of India, (1995) 3 SCC 248, wherein the court considered various facets of Right to Life enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

“…right to dignity and fair treatment under Article 21 of the Constitution of India is not only available to a living man but also to his body after his death

Bench also quoted Oscar Wilde who said,

“Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses wearing above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forget life, to be at peace.”

Bombay High Court’s decision in Pradeep Gandhy v. State of Maharashtra; 2020 SCC Online Bombay 662 was also referred to wherein,

“Right to a decent burial commensurate with the dignity of the individual was reiterated as a recognized facet of the Right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.”

Issues to be examined:

  • Whether there has been a gross violation of the fundamental rights of the deceased victim and the family members of the victim?
  • Whether the State Authorities have acted oppressively high handedly and illegally to violate such rights as if it is found to be so, then, this would be a case where accountability will not only have to be fixed but for future guidance also stern action would be required.
  • Whether the economic and social status of the deceased’s family has been taken advantage of by the State Authorities to oppress and deprive them of their Constitutional rights?

Rights available under the Constitution are to be protected

Rights of the individual citizens in the Country and State especially that of the poor and the downtrodden such as the family members of the deceased victim and the deceased herself are paramount.

Court also takes cognizance of the matter that the seat of governance being at Lucknow and the High Police Officials posted in the office of Director General of Police, U.P. at Lucknow justified the cremation at night.

In view of the above, Court directed the Senior Registrar of this Court at Lucknow to register a suo moto Public Interest Litigation with the title In Re: Right to decent and dignified last rites/cremation” and place it before the appropriate Bench having jurisdiction to hear Public Interest Litigations.

Court-appointed Senior Advocate, Jaideep Narain Mathur and Abhinav Bhattacharya Advocate as Amicus Curiae.

State Authorities are directed to ensure that no coercion, influence or pressure is exerted upon the family members of the deceased in any manner, by anyone.

Family members of the deceased victim i.e. the father, the mother, brothers and sisters shall be present before this Court so that this Court ascertains the facts and their version of the incidents which took place at the time of the cremation.

Matter has been listed on 12-10-2020. [Decided on 01-10-2020]

Allahabad High Court_Hathras-Rape-Case

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: Narayan Singh Dhanik, J., allowed a Criminal Jail Appeal which was filed from the jail against the judgment whereby the appellant had been convicted for the offences under Section 376/511 Penal Code, 1860 and Section 6 of the POCSO Act and was sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for ten years and to pay a fine of Rs 25,000 for the offence under Section 6 of the POCSO Act.

The complainant had filed an FIR against the appellant alleging that he had attempted to commit rape on the two and half year’s old daughter of the complainant and had committed sexual assault on her. He further alleged that when he went looking for his daughter along with a companion he found the appellant while he was indulged in committing the alleged offence and took him to the police station. On conclusion of the trial, appellant was convicted and sentenced. Thus, the instant appeal was filed by the Amicus Curiae, Raman Kumar Sah on behalf of the appellant submitting that the prosecution had failed to prove the case against the appellant. He further contended that the victim had not identified the appellant nor the victim in her testimony had named the appellant and that the facts elicited during the cross-examination of the complainant and the companion along with him were totally contrary to the prosecution story. It was further contended that the mother of the victim did not support the prosecution story and was declared hostile. Per contra, the AGA for the State, Manisha Rana Singh submitted that prosecution had produced sufficient and credible evidence and the trial court had rightly convicted and sentenced the appellant.

The Court while allowing the appeal set aside the judgment and order of the Trial Court. The Court assessed the medical examination report of the victim which disclosed that the urethral meatus & vestibule, labia major and labia minor of the victim were found normal and no tear or swelling in the private parts was found and Hymen perineum of the victim was also found intact but the doctor had further stated that a little redness was present in the outer surface of the hymen of the victim and the presence of dried blood stains was also detected on her private parts and these conditions led to opine her that the attempt of sexual intercourse with the victim was made. It accepted all the contentions given by the Amicus Curiae and opined that the opinion of the doctor alone was not enough to connect the accused-appellant with the alleged crime in view of the material on record and in the absence of any credible evidence. The Court while quashing the conviction and sentence stated that,

            “In criminal cases, conviction cannot be based upon morality and there must be admissible and credible evidence to base conviction and moreover it is well-settled canon of criminal jurisprudence that ‘fouler the crime higher the proof’ and mandate of law is that the prosecution has to prove the charges beyond all reasonable doubt. A few bits here and a few bits thereon which prosecution relies cannot be held to be adequate or connecting the accused with the crime in question.”[Akash Kumar v. State of Uttarakhand, 2020 SCC OnLine Utt 562, decided on 28-09-2020]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of RF Nariman, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee, JJ has acquitted  a man in a rape case dating back to 1999 after it as proved that the prosecutrix had consensually established physical relations with him out of love.

“… the consent of the prosecutrix was but a conscious and deliberated choice, as distinct from an involuntary action or denial and which opportunity was available to her, because of her deep­seated love for the appellant leading her to willingly permit him liberties with her body, which according to normal human behaviour are permitted only to a person with whom one is deeply in love.”

BACKGROUND

The appellant had challenged his conviction under sections 376, 323 and 341 IPC sentencing him to seven years, one year and one month respectively with fine and a default stipulation. The prosecutrix had filed and FIR in 1999 against the appellant alleging that four years ago the appellant had outraged her modesty at the point of a knife and had since been promising to marry her and on that pretext continued to establish physical relations with her as husband and wife. She had also stayed at his house for fifteen days during which also he established physical relations with her. Five days prior to the lodging of the F.I.R, the appellant had established physical relations with her. She further claimed that the appellant had cheated her as now he was going to solemnise his marriage with another girl in a few days.

CONSIDERATIONS BY THE COURT

Age of the prosecutrix

The prosecutrix in her deposition dithered with regard to her age by first stating she was sixteen years on the date of occurrence and then corrected herself to state she was thirteen. She had alleged that the appellant outraged her modesty at the point of a knife while she was on way to school but no name of the school has been disclosed either by the prosecutrix or her parents.

“If she was studying in a school then why proof of age was not furnished on basis of documentary evidence such as school register etc.?”

Also, prosecutrix’s cousin aged about 30 years deposed that she was six years younger to him. Hence, a wide variation in the evidence with regard to the age of the prosecutrix could be seen. The Court, hence, noticed,

“In absence of positive evidence being led by the prosecution with regard to the age of the prosecutrix on the date of occurrence, the possibility of her being above the age of eighteen years on the date cannot be ruled out. The benefit of doubt therefore has to be given to the appellant.”

Examination under Section 313 CrPC

It stands well settled that circumstances not put to an accused under Section 313 Cr.P.C. cannot be used against him, and must be excluded from consideration. In a criminal trial, the importance of the questions put to an accused are basic to the principles of natural justice as it provides him the opportunity not only to furnish his defence, but also to explain the incriminating circumstances against him. A probable defence raised by an accused is sufficient to rebut the accusation without the requirement of proof beyond reasonable doubt.

However, a bare perusal of the examination of the accused under Section 313 Cr.P.C. in the present case revealed it to be extremely casual and perfunctory in nature.

Factum of love affair between the accused and the prosecutrix

  • The appellant belonged to the Scheduled Tribe while the prosecutrix belonged to the Christian community. They professed different religious beliefs in a traditional society. They both resided in the same village Basjadi and were known to each other.
  • The nature and manner of allegations, coupled with the letters exchanged between them, make it apparent that their love for each other grew and matured over a sufficient period of time.
  • The physical relations that followed was not isolated or sporadic in nature, but regular over the years.
  • The prosecutrix had gone and resided in the house of the appellant.
  • The parents of the prosecutrix acknowledged awareness of the relationship between appellant and the prosecutrix and that they were informed after the first occurrence itself but offer no explanation why they did not report the matter to the police immediately.
  • The prosecutrix acknowledged that an engagement ceremony had also been performed but the marriage between them could not be solemnised because they belonged to different religions. She was therefore conscious of this obstacle all along, even while she continued to establish physical relations with the appellant.
  • Prosecutrix denied having written any letters to the appellant, contrary to the evidence placed on record by the defence. She in her letters to the appellant also mentions that there would often be quarrels at her home with her family members with regard to the relationship, and beatings given to her.

“The amorous language used by both in the letters exchanged reflect that the appellant was serious about the relationship desiring to culminate the same into marriage. But unfortunately for societal reasons, the marriage could not materialise as they belonged to different communities.”

The Court noticed that the delay of four years in lodgement of the FIR, at an opportune time of seven days prior to the appellant solemnising his marriage with another girl, on the pretext of a promise to the prosecutrix raises serious doubts about the truth and veracity of the allegations levelled by the prosecutrix.  The entire genesis of the case is in serious doubt in view of the admission of the prosecutrix in cross examination that no incident had occurred on 09.04.1999.

Consent under Section 90 IPC

Under Section 90 IPC, a consent given under a misconception of fact is no consent in the eyes of law.  But the misconception of fact has to be in proximity of time to the occurrence and cannot be spread over a period of four years.

“It hardly needs any elaboration that the consent by the appellant was a conscious and informed choice made by her after due deliberation, it being spread over a long period of time coupled with a conscious positive action not to protest.”

CONCLUSION

The Court held that the appellant did not make any false promise or intentional misrepresentation of marriage leading to establishment of physical relationship between the parties. The prosecutrix was herself aware of the obstacles in their relationship because of different religious beliefs. An engagement ceremony was also held in the solemn belief that the societal obstacles would be overcome, but unfortunately differences also arose whether the marriage was to solemnised in the Church or in a Temple and ultimately failed. The Court said that “If the appellant had married her, she would not have lodged the case.”

The Court, hence, found the conviction of the appellant to be unsustainable and acquitted him.

[Maheshwar Tigga v. State of Jharkhand, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 779, decided on 28.09.2020]