Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Pained to note the permitting of questions by the Lower Court which crossed all lines of dignity of a woman, Division Bench of Sadhana S. Jadhav and Sarang V. Kotwal, JJ., while denying reducing the sentence of the 3 accused who raped a woman, expressed regarding sentencing policy that,

“…object of sentencing policy should be to see that the crime does not go unpunished and the victim of crime as also the society has the satisfaction that justice has been done to it.”

“Sentencing Policy adopted by the Courts, in such cases, ought to have a stricter yardstick so as to act as a deterrent”

Prosecutrix was taken to various places and then to a secluded place where all 3 accused appellants committed rape on her one after the other and later she was left near her residence. In the meantime, police was informed by the relatives of prosecutrix’s who were searching for her.

FIR was lodged under various sections including Section 376(2)(g) of the Penal Code, 1860. All the accused were arrested and the Indica Car in which the prosecutrix was taken to various places was also seized.

What transpired the above-stated facts?

Prosecutrix while waiting for a bus to reach a destination was approached by a maroon coloured Indica car and the driver offered the prosecutrix to drop her. PW-1 was aware that some vehicles operating for the Call Centers were used to take other passengers and under the said impression in light of getting late she decided to go in that car.

On the way accused 1 told the prosecutrix that there would be 8-10 more people who would commit rape on her. The accused even bought beer and some food and consumed the same.

Further, accused 1 asked PW-1 to make a call to her mother and inform her that she would be late so that nobody starts searching for her. After that, she was taken to a secluded place where she was raped by one after the other and dropped around 12.45 near her residence. On reaching her place she immediately called her mother and after that, her aunt and two friends came to her flat and then the police also arrived.

She was taken to a hospital for medical examination, and she even identified all the accused in the Court.

Bench noted that defence tried to develop a theory of consensual sex and kept giving certain suggestions which this Court disapproved of.

Court stated that it was pained because of the passive approach adopted by the Judged in allowing such questions. The said questions crossed all lines of basic dignity.

“Under the garb of giving suggestions. Graphic details of the act were put to the witness.”

Under Section 152 of the Indian Evidence Act, the Court was duty-bound to forbid any question which appeared to be intended to insult or annoy or which though proper in itself appeared to the Court needlessly offensive in form. Section 151 of the Indian Evidence Act also empowers the Court to forbid any questions or inquiries which it regards as indecent or scandalous, although such questions or inquiries may have some bearing on the questions before the Court, unless they relate to facts in issue, or to matters necessary to be known in order to determine whether or not the facts in issue existed.

Noting the above, lower Court Judge failed in his duty in not protecting the dignity of PW-1 and not exercising his powers under Sections 151 and 152 of the Indian Evidence Act.

High Court added that it is necessary to remind trial Courts that under Section 148 of the Indian Evidence Act, it is their duty to decide when the witness shall be compelled to answer.

PW-1 had denied the theory of consensual sex and, therefore, all further suggestions in respect of the actual act of intercourse were totally unnecessary.

Special Public Prosecutors

“Not happy with the silence kept by the Special Public Prosecutor by not objecting to the suggestions.”

Court expressed that it is necessary to remind the prosecutors that under the scheme of CrPC, they are in-charge of the conduct of the prosecution. They are supposed to perform their duties responsibly and they are supposed to render sincere assistance to the Court. It is their responsibility to protect the interest of the victims and the witnesses before the Court.

“Prosecutors cannot only concentrate on securing conviction, but the conduct of the proper trial is also their duty.”

Bench held that the circumstances of the case sufficiently prove the guilt of the accused.

Medical evidence had also shown that PW-1 was subjected to forceful sexual intercourse.

Prosecution had established its case against all the accused beyond all reasonable doubt.

While concluding, Court stated that in the present matter, PW-1 innocently took the lift from accused 1. Accused 1 & 2 and accused 3 who joined them subsequently, took advantage of her helpless condition. They committed rape on her. She was threatened. PW-1 has suffered extreme trauma.

Court upheld the decision of the trial court. [Ranjeet Shahaji Gade v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 3061, decided on 28-9-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Ms Anjali Patil, Advocate a/w. Mr Nauman Shaikh, for the Appellant in Criminal Appeal No. 310/2012.

Mr P.G. Sarda, Advocate for the Appellants in Criminal Appeal No.184/2012.

Ms S.V. Sonawane, APP for the Respondent–State.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Subramonium Prasad, J., observed that,

Rape is not merely a physical assault; it is often destructive of the whole personality of the victim. The act of rape has the ability to scar the mental psyche of the victim and the trauma can persist for years.

Instant petition was filed under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code for quashing the FIR registered for offences under Section 376 of Penal Code, 1860 on the ground that petitioners and respondent 2 have entered into a compromise.

Petitioner’s counsel submitted that the instant FIR was a counterblast against the husband of respondent 2.

High Court on perusal of the facts and circumstances of the case stated that the parties registered cross-cases against each other for offences under Section 376 IPC.

It is tragic to note that practising advocates belonging to the legal fraternity are trivialising the offence of rape.

 In the Supreme Court decision of Shyam Narain v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2013) 7 SCC 77, it was observed that,

“27. Respect for reputation of women in the society shows the basic civility of a civilised society. No member of society can afford to conceive the idea that he can create a hollow in the honour of a woman. Such thinking is not only lamentable but also deplorable. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the thought of sullying the physical frame of a woman is the demolition of the accepted civilised norm i.e. ‘physical morality’. In such a sphere, impetuosity has no room. The youthful excitement has no place. It should be paramount in everyone’s mind that, on the one hand, society as a whole cannot preach from the pulpit about social, economic and political equality of the sexes and, on the other, some perverted members of the same society dehumanise the woman by attacking her body and ruining her chastity. It is an assault on the individuality and inherent dignity of a woman with the mindset that she should be elegantly servile to men.”

Hence, the Courts shoulder a great responsibility while trying an accused on charges of rape. The matter is of grave concern that people are treating the said allegation in a very casual manner.

Whether the High Courts, while exercising its jurisdiction under Section 482 CrPC, should quash an offence under Section 376 IPC?

Bench stated that rape is an offence against society. The Supreme Court has time and again directed the High Court to not exercise its jurisdiction under Section 482 CrPC to quash an offence of rape in light of parties entering into a compromise.

Court referred plethora of cases and held that quashing FIR for offences like rape on the basis of compromise will encourage accused to put pressure on the victims to agree to a compromise and that would open doors for the accused to get away with a heinous crime which could not be permitted.

Allegations regarding offences such as one under Section 376 IPC cannot be made at the drop of a hat – in order to settle personal scores.

People who make such false allegations of rape cannot be permitted to go scot-free.

High Court expressed that it is pained to note that there is an alarming increase of false cases of rape and offences under Section 354, 354A, 354B, 354C & 354D only to arm-twist the accused and make them succumb to the demands of the complainant.

False claims and allegations pertaining to cases of molestation and rape need to be dealt with an iron hand due to the serious nature of the offences.

Such litigations are instituted by the unscrupulous litigants in the hope that other party will capitulate to their demands out of fear or shame.

Lastly, the Court held that Courts have to ensure that there is no incentive or motive for frivolous litigations which unnecessarily consumes the Court’s otherwise scarce time.

In view of the mandate of the Supreme Court that High Courts must not exercise its powers under Section 482 CrPC for quashing an offence of rape only on the ground that the parties have entered into a compromise, this Court was not inclined to entertain this petition.[Vimlesh Agnihotri v. State, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 4024, decided on 16-08-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioners: Sonu Kumar, Advocate

For the Respondents: Kusum Dhalla, APP for the State

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: Anand Pathak, J., granted anticipatory bail to the applicant who had filed the application apprehending arrest in respect of registration of crime punishable under Section 376(2) (n) of Penal Code, 1860

The counsel for the applicant, Mr Ravi Dwivedi and Mr Atul Gupta submitted that as per the contents of FIR itself, applicant and prosecutrix were in live-in relationship for almost a year and when relationship turn soured and applicant proceeded to marry with some other girl, then this case has been filed as a counterblast to exert pressure. The counsel further contended that offence of rape prima facie cannot be made out on the basis of promise of marriage and here the parties lived as couple in live-in relationship. He added that confinement amounts to pretrial detention. The counsel assured that the applicant undertakes to cooperate in the investigation/trial and would not be a source of embarrassment and harassment to the complainant party in any manner and shall not move in her vicinity.

The Court considering the fact situation of the case and in view of COVID-19 pandemic as well as looking to the mandate of Supreme Court in the case of Aparna Bhat v. State of M.P, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 230 allowed the application. The Court further directed that the applicant will not indulge himself in extending inducement, threat or promise to any person acquainted with the facts of the case so as to dissuade them from disclosing such facts to the Court or to the Police Officer. He was further directed not to move in the vicinity of prosecutrix and shall not be a source of embarrassment and harassment to her in any manner.[Mayank Tiwari v. State of M.P., M.Cr.C. No.31444 of 2021, decided on 28-06-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Sandeep K. Shinde, J., granted anticipatory bail to a constable accused of rape and other offences as detailed below.

Instant anticipatory bail application was filed in crime registered under Sections 376(2)(n), 354(5), 417, 419, 427, 504, 506(2), 502 of the Penal Code, 1860 read with Section 66(C) of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Applicant was attached to constabulary cadre of the Maharashtra Police and was serving at the traffic Department, Malabar Hill, Mumbai.

Complainant developed a close friendship with the applicant after being deployed and the same took the form of a love affair. Later, the complainant alleged that the applicant had suppressed his marital status.

Though the complainant alleged, the applicant had informed her, his wife was psychologically unwell and hence he desired to divorce his wife. Further, in the year 2018, the applicant borrowed money from the complainant from time to time and when she demanded her own money from him, he abused her.

Applicant on the false promise of marriage persuaded the complainant to succumb to physical desires at various places and hotels.

It was also alleged that the applicant had recorded her obscene videos and was threatening to upload the same on social media and disseminate the same to her relatives if she refused to maintain the relationship with him.

Applicant damaged the complainant’s cell phone to cause disappearance of the evidence.

After such incidents, complainant disclosed everything to applicant’s wife. She also added that her proposed marriage broke down, since the applicant sent some objectionable messages to the sister of her fiancé.

Decision

Bench stated that on taking into consideration the facts of the case, prima facie opined that since he has been suspended from service and is available for investigation, a case for granting interim-pre-arrest protection was made.

High Court directed the investigating officer to place the reports for further consideration on 19-07-2021.

Lastly, the Court added that the applicant shall join the investigation as and when called and shall not contact the complainant or influence prosecution witnesses. [Madhav Krishna Vasave v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 833, decided on 4-06-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Mr. S.R. Nargolkar i/by Shri Arjun Kadam for the Applicant.

Ms. P.P.Shinde, APP for the Respondent-State.

Mr. Shrikant S. Rathi for the Complainant/Intervenor.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: Birendra Kumar, J., while addressing the matter stated that the present judgment as well as the Trial Court’s Judgment against which the appeal was filed required to be forwarded to the Director, Bihar Judicial Academy to ensure proper academic training to the judicial officers to make them conversant with the correct legal proposition.

Adding to the above, Bench expressed that Chief Justice may deem it proper that the trial judge who passed the impugned judgment needs special training at the Judicial Academy.

Appellant was charged under Section 376 of Penal Code, 1860 and Section 6 of the POCSO Act.

Trial Judge convicted the appellant for offence under Section 18 of the POCSO Act for the reason that no case of aggravated penetrative sexual assault was made out rather a case of attempt to commit penetrative sexual assault was proved against the appellant.

In the present appeal, Trial Court’s decision was challenged.

As per the facts of the case, appellant forcefully established a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl. The further allegation is that the appellant lifted her and was carrying her to commit her murder, but the family members came, and the appellant was apprehended and was handed over to the police.

Bench noted that none of the doctors who had occasion to examine the victim were produced as witness during the trial.

Prosecution’s report was not a substantive piece of evidence unless the expert appeared before the Court and supported the medical performance done by them. Therefore, no evidence was present in the case. Hence the impugned judgment of conviction was fit to be set aside.

High Court noted that the Trial Court Judge referred to Sanskrit shloka and Ghazals of Late Jagjit Singh while awarding the sentence against the appellant.

Bench expressed that Trial Judge especially a Judge having power to award death sentence must have correct knowledge of legal principles and zeal to its proper application while exercising the most onerous responsibility of taking decision on the life and liberty of the person before him.

Further adding to the above, Court stated that lack of knowledge of legal principles leads to miscarriage of justice and unnecessary harassment to the parties to the litigation. Bias and prejudices, conjectures and surmises and personal views contrary to the material on the record have no place in the court of law.

Court held that the trial Judge accepted the conflicting prosecution case as disclosed in the statement of the prosecutrix under Sections 154 and 164 CrPC for recording conviction without appreciating the fact that the aforesaid were not a substantive piece of pieces of evidence and the evidence brought during the trial did not disclose the commission of any offence or identity of the perpetrator of the offence.

Hence the impugned judgment and sentence was set aside. [Deepak Mahto v. State of Bihar, 2021 SCC OnLine Pat 770, decided on 12-04-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Appellant/s: Mr N. K. Agrawal, Sr. Advocate. Mr Vijay Anand, Advocate.

For the Respondent/s: Mr Zeyaul Hoda, APP

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of S.S. Shinde and Manish Pitale, JJ., held that whether a minor gave her consent for sex is immaterial.

Allegation in the present matter was with respect to the alleged sexual assault.

Being aggrieved by the Additional Sessions Judge Order rejecting the prayer of the appellant to release him on bail, the present appeal was filed.

Bench noted the facts and circumstances of the case and further stated that in light of the evidence collected by the Investigating Officer, the involvement of the appellant was disclosed in the alleged commission of offence.

Further, the Court dismissed the contention of the counsel appearing for the appellant that there was consensual sex as the same deserved no consideration since respondent 2 was admittedly minor on the date of alleged incident.

“…the victim was minor at the time of alleged incident and during that period she conceived and delivered a baby. Her consent for the sexual act was immaterial.”

Victim’s statement was recorded under Section 164(5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the said statement would show that she never consented to the appellant for sex and apart from the alleged offences under IPC and POCSO, provision of Special Act i.e. SC & ST Act are attracted.

Therefore, in view of the above discussion present appeal was dismissed. Trial Court was directed to expedite the trial. [ABC v. State of Maharashtra,  2021 SCC OnLine Bom 517, decided on 05-04-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Mr Rahul Kadam a/w. Mr Maaz Syed for appellant.
Mr Rohan Surve appointed advocate for Respondent No. 2.
Mr. Deepak Thakre, PP a/w. Mrs M H Mhatre, APP for Respondent-State.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana Case: Harnaresh Singh Gill, J., dismissed the instant petition filed for issuance of directions to Police officials to hand over the investigation of her case under Section 376 Penal Code, 1860, to the Central Bureau of Investigation or to some other independent agency. The Bench stated,

“…it is clearly established that an attempt has been made to not only abuse the process of law but also overawe the authorities.”

Background

The facts of the case were that the petitioner was working as a Nurse in a dispensary and accused Varun Joshi, who was an active member of the local wing of the ruling party, used to visit the said dispensary and started outraging the modesty of the petitioner. It was submitted that the accused approached the petitioner in her office and threatened her that he was having her nude videos and would upload the same on internet if she did not develop physical relations with him or pay Rs. 5,00,000 to him. Allegedly, Rs. 4 lakhs were paid to the accused as compromise, however, the accused again visited the office of the petitioner and told her that he had deleted only a few clips and demanded Rs. 3 lakhs further to delete them. On the petitioner showing her inability to pay Rs. 3 lakhs, the accused took her in an Innova car and had committed rape upon her.

The grievance of the petitioner was that no action was taken by the Police. The petitioner submitted that although, her statement was recorded instead of registering an FIR, the Police constituted a committee of two members to enquire into the matter. It was further averred that Deputy Superintendent of Police threatened the petitioner to settle the matter with the accused as he happened to be the man of means and belonging to the ruling party.

The respondent submitted that the DG of Police constituted a Special Investigation Team and the place of occurrence was visited by a lady member of the SIT and found the case of the petitioner to be based on false allegations. It was further submitted that a litigant who attempts to pollute the stream of justice or touches the pure fountain of justice with tainted hands, is not entitled to any relief. Therefore, exemplary costs should be imposed upon the petitioner, for such a frivolous litigation.

Observations and Conclusion

The Bench observed that the allegations raised by the petitioner were not proved as the call location of the petitioner and the accused show different places from the one where the alleged rape was committed. The investigation regarding the stay of the petitioner and the accused in Hotel Sneh Mohan was conducted and the statement of the Manager was also recorded and a conclusion was drawn that the petitioner and the accused had stayed there on different dates on friendly basis.

The SIT had also drawn a conclusion that there was a friendly relationship between the petitioner and the accused and the dispute between them arose only when the petitioner made a written complaint to the Gram Panchayat against her husband, daughter and her in-laws’ family and showed her desire to stay away from them. The Bench opined,

“It is clear that the petitioner has levelled false and frivolous allegations against the accused and has gone to the extent of lodging the FIR in question and recording the statement before the Magistrate. The petitioner has not approached this Court with clean hands.”

Relieance was placed on Phool Chandra v. State of U.P., (2014) 13 SCC 112,  wherein, the Supreme Court expressed its concern over the need to curb frivolous petitions in following words, “It is high time that the Courts should come down heavily upon such frivolous litigation and unless we ensure that the wrongdoers are denied profit or undue benefit from the frivolous litigation, it would be difficult to control frivolous and uncalled for litigation.”

Lastly, the Bench stated, from the facts and circumstances delineated above, it is clearly established that an attempt had been made to not only abuse the process of law but also overawe the authorities. In view of the above, the petition was dismissed with costs of Rs. 1 lakhs to be paid and deposited by the petitioner with the Institute for the Blind. [Pritpal Kaur v. State of Punjab, CRM-M No. 14954 of 2020, decided on 16-03-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearance before the Court by:

For the Petitioner: Adv. Rajesh Bhatheja

For the Respondents: AGG. Randhir Singh Thind, AAG, Adv. Shubhra Singh, Adv.  Puru Gupta and Adv. A.S.Brar

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of Prasanna B. Varale and S.M. Modak, JJ., while addressing the present matter expressed that:

 “…relationship in between brother and sister, relationship in between mother and son, relationship in between father and daughter and so on were considered as sacrosanct. However, due to passage of time, these relationships have no more remained sacrosanct and there are various instances of overstepping the sacrosanct relationship by the near relationship.”

In the instant matter, appellant sexually abused his own daughter/victim. There are two views that is:

Whether the victim was a real daughter or a step-daughter. But the fact remains that she is victim.

Trial Court had convicted the appellant for the offence of Section 376 (2)(i), 506 IPC and under Section 4 of POCSO. A further separate sentence was imposed for the offence under Section of the said Act. Appellant had also obtained nude photographs of the victim on his mobile handset, trial court convicted him for the offence punishable under Section 67-B of the Information Technology Act 2000. Adding to this, the trial court acquitted the appellant for the offence punishable under Section 323 IPC.

In the present appeal, trial court’s judgment is challenged by the appellant.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Bench noted that the present matter was based on direct and corroborative evidence.

High Court considered the following:

Even though morally and legally Bench cannot think of a situation wherein the father has raped his minor daughter, but it is correct that Court is bound by rules of law. Even though such instances involving such a relationship are on rise, can Court take into account the evidence which is not admissible (as per existing provisions of law and on its interpretation) and convict the wrongdoer just for the purpose of sending a message in the society?

Bench stated that unfortunately, it cannot take such a view by bypassing the provisions of law.

Corroboration

Evidence given by way of corroboration cannot be said to be substantive evidence.

While elaborating on the concept of corroboration, High Court in light of the present context stated that when the trial court opined that the Section 164 statement can be utilized by way of corroboration, this Court fails to understand what the trial Court mean to say corroboration of which fact?

Trial Court failed to consider the difference and infact considered the Section 164 statement as substantive evidence itself. High Court stated that it is not permissible and hence the said observation was set aside.

Bench noted that there were image files of victim girls and video clips were pornographic. But there is a need to understand what is its evidentiary value, whether it is substantive evidence or whether it is a corroborative piece of evidence?

High Court for the above answered that the person who had seen the incident recorded or who is victim of events recorded can be the proper person and his evidence is substantive evidence. What is recorded and stored in the memory card when it is produced becomes corroborative piece of evidence.

Bench relied upon the following cases for the purpose of electronic evidence:

Bench laid down the finding that electronic evidence also needs to be proved just like any other evidence.

Further, the Court stated that it is not inclined to accept the FSL report at least for the purpose of inferring that it is the accused only who has taken those images or done recording. At the most, it can only be said that in the articles referred to in FSL report some pornographic images were found.

Bench stated that it was cautious of the relationship between the victim and accused. It was difficult to opine what compelled the victim not to state those facts which she stated before the police.

Present set of facts and circumstances warrants that there are certain materials suggesting sexual intercourse but the hands of the Court are tied due to the provisions of law.

Statement of the victim recorded under section 164 of CrPC has not been given the status of examination-in-chief in all circumstances (except in case of disability as provided in clause (b) to sub-section 5A to Section 164 of Cr.P.C.).

Supreme Court’s decision in Shivanna expressed the desire to consider the statement under Section 164 CrPC as examination in chief, amendment to that effect is not brought to Court’s notice.

Hence, with all pains, High Court had no alternative than setting aside the conviction of the appellant for the offence punishable under Section 376(2)(i) of IPC and under Section 506 of IPC, though conviction under Section 67-B of the Information and Technology Act was maintained.

Lastly, while parting with the decision, High Court opined that the authorities concerned of the State or Central Government will take some initiative in incorporating certain amendment under relevant laws as to give status to Section 164 statement as that of the examination-in-chief in all eventualities.

We hope that legislatures will also consider the practical realities of the life which the victim has to face. The trauma which victim has to undergo, after the incident does not stop there and when it comes to facing real-life issues, there may be occasion for the victim to forego all the trauma which she had undergone and to take U turn.

[Imran Shabbir Gauri v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 511, decided on 31-03-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Mr Aniket Vagal for the Appellant (Legal Aid). Mrs M. M. Deshmukh, APP for the State.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Orissa High Court: S. K. Panigrahi, J. dismissed the bail application as there was a clear possibility of further danger to the complainant by the accused.

The facts of the case are such that the petitioner lured the complainant into having physical relationship with her promising her to marry wherein she became pregnant twice, which was aborted and consent to marriage was denied by the family members of the petitioner. Hence, the complainant’s family fixed her marriage elsewhere consequent to which the petitioner posted personal photographs of the complainant along with him using fake Facebook IDs created in her name and mentioned that the complainant had a relationship with him but was marrying someone else. As a result of this, the complainant’s marriage was broken and she was defamed in society. The complainant lodged an FIR under Sections 376(1), 313, 294 and 506 of the Penal Code, 1860 i.e. IPC and Sections 66(E) and 67(A) of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008 and was thereby arrested. The instant petition has been filed under Section 439 Criminal Procedure Code seeking bail.

Counsel for the petitioners Mr N Mishra submitted that the present case has been foisted in a fabricated manner to harass the present petitioner. Hence, the petitioner should be granted bail.

The Court relied on judgment Anurag Soni v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2019) 13 SCC 1 and observed that if an accused from the very beginning has given a promise of marriage without any intention to fulfil that promise and in lieu of such promise that the accused will marry her, she gave her consent for sexual intercourse with the accused, then such consent would not amount to valid consent. It shall come within the ambit of the misconception of fact under Section 90 of IPC. Thus, such consent shall not excuse the accused from the charges for the offence of rape under Section 375 of IPC.

The Court however observed that the law is well settled that consent obtained on a false promise to marry is not a valid consent. Since the framers of the law have specifically provided the circumstances when ‘consent’ amounts to ‘no consent’ in terms of Section 375 of IPC, consent for the sexual act on the pretext of marriage is not one of the circumstances mentioned under Section 375 of IPC. Hence, the automatic extension of provisions of Section 90 of IPC to determine the effect of consent under Section 375 of IPC deserves a serious relook. The law holding that false promise to marriage amounts to rape appears to be erroneous, however, the plight of the victim and the probability of the accused tarnishing the dignity of the victim and her family need to be looked at while deliberating on the question of bail.

The Court thus held “The possibility of coercion of victim’s family, repetition of similar type of offence and flee from justice cannot be ruled out in the present case. Therefore, the petitioner does not deserve to be granted bail.”

In view of the above, application was dismissed.[Rinku Pradhan v, State of Odisha, BLAPL No.6629 of 2020, decided on 05-03-2021]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: S.G. Chattopadhyay J., rejected a bail application which was filed in the matter of an FIR registered under Sections 377 and 506 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Section 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO hereunder) for committing sexual assault on the son of the informant.

The mother of the victim lodged the written ejahar alleging that the accused who was a private tutor of her son, a boy aged 9 years, used to give private tuition to her son regularly in the house of the accused of the last 3 months. When the informant found her son reluctant to go to his said private tutor and she also noticed that her son was not feeling well she asked him as to what happened to him. In reply, he told his mother that he was feeling pain in his rectum because his private tutor inserted his genital organ into his rectum at the time of his taking tuition from him. Knowing this, mother of the victim had immediately taken her son to the hospital where injuries were found in his rectum.

Apprehending arrest, the accused had approached this court for pre-arrest bail.

The Court after perusing all the records observed that the victim became very upset after the occurrence and after the medical tests when they came to know about the occurrence the accused private tutor also left his home. The Court further observed that same statement had been given by her husband and one of the neighbours who came to know about the occurrence from the parents of the victim. The 9 years old victim had also unfolded the entire incidence before the Judicial Magistrate who recorded his statement under Section 164(5) CrPC. About the medical evidence it was found that the IO had already approached the medical officer to record his findings in the medical report and such report was awaited.

The Court while rejecting the bail application found that materials available on record had made out a strong prima facie case against the accused petitioner and in view of the above, this court was of the view that this was not a fit case in which the accused may be given the benefit of custodial immunity by granting pre-arrest bail.[Indrajit Ghosh v. State of Tripura, 2021 SCC OnLine Tri 112, decided on 26-02-2021]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant ahs put this story together.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Sandeep K. Shinde, J., addressed a matter wherein the appellant challenged the conviction and sentence passed by Additional Sessions Judge for his conviction under Section 417 of Penal Code, 1860.

In the present matter, it has been stated that the appellant was convicted under Section 417 of the Penal Code, 1860.

Prosecutrix while working on the construction site be-friended with the accused and in a short span, they engaged in sexual relations, more than one time.

Further, she alleged that the appellant did not disclose his marital status but presuming, he would marry her, she submitted to his sexual desires on more than one occasion, by the time she learnt that the appellant was married, she was pregnant.

In 1990, prosecutrix lodged a complaint about the offence punishable under Section 376 IPC, pending investigation, prosecutrix delivered a baby girl.

Trial Court upon appreciating the evidence of the prosecutrix, recorded the finding, that it was a consensual act and, thus, acquitted the accused of the offence punishable under Section 376 of the IPC. Trial Judge, however, convicted the accused of the offence punishable under Section 417 of the IPC and sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment for six months.

Analysis and Decision

Bench while analysing the facts and circumstances of the case noted that prosecutrix submitted in her testimony that she was living on construction site and be-friended with the accused, whereafter they fell in love with each other.

Further, Court observed that the evidence of the prosecutrix did not suggest that the appellant made a false promise to marry her. Hence, it cannot be said that the appellant lured the prosecutrix to engage in sexual relations with him on the false promise of marrying her.

Question for consideration:

Whether conviction of the accused under Section 417 of the IPC is sustainable?

“…here was no ‘promise to marry’ nor intentional deception by misrepresentation or deceitfulness practised before establishing physical relationship with prosecutrix.”

In fact prosecutrix’s evidence suggested that she presumed that the appellant was not married and further assumed that he would marry her.

Therefore, the absence of ‘dishonest concealment of fact’, which is an essential ingredient of offence, within the meaning of explanation, appended to Section 415 of IPC, a conviction under Section 417 of IPC is not sustainable.

Lastly, Court concluded by stating that the impugned conviction and sentence by the Additional Sessions Judge be quashed and set aside. [Jagdish Raghunath Mankar v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 269, decided on 24-02-2021]


Advocates who appeared before the Court:

Advait M. Sethna appointed advocate with Pravan A. Gohil with Eshaan Saroop for the appellant.

Sharmila Kaushik, APP for the Respondent- State.


Read more:

[Section 417 IPC] Punishment for cheating.—Whoever cheats shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

[Section 415 IPC] Cheating.—Whoever, by deceiving any person, fraudulently or dishonestly induces the person so deceived to deliver any property to any person, or to consent that any person shall retain any property, or intentionally induces the person so deceived to do or omit to do anything which he would not do or omit if he were not so deceived, and which act or omission causes or is likely to cause damage or harm to that person in body, mind, reputation or property, is said to “cheat”.

Explanation.—A dishonest concealment of facts is a deception within the meaning of this section.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Anoop Chitkara J., allowed the petition and reduced the sentence to the period of imprisonment already undergone.

Background

The facts of the case are such that an unmarried boy aged 24 years, who is in custody for around three months, because a minor girl aged 16 years, came to his home as they love each other, stayed there, had coitus, which on the intervention of her parents led to the registration of FIR. The petitioner filed a bail petition under Section 439 Criminal Procedure Code i.e. CrPC before this High Court, wherein the bail petition was dismissed as withdrawn vide order dated 17-12-2020. Assailing the said order instant petition was filed seeking regular bail on the ground of the conduct of the victim.

Analysis

The Court observed that neither Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, (IPC), nor Section 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, (POCSO) create any restriction on grant of bail. It was further observed that after perusing the facts and circumstances, it seems that the petitioner and the victim knew each other and were romantically involved and there is no case of forcible sexual relationship; instead, the victim surrendered to the petitioner’s physical desires out of her love and affection towards him. The victim’s boldness to declare her passion towards the petitioner in the presence of her father and Police speaks volumes. Further, she also told them explicitly that she left her home out of her own free will and refused to go back with her father. These facts point out that the victim, being 16 years of age, though a minor, voluntarily left her home. Therefore, the rigors to reject bail and reasons to continue incarceration are reduced by the mitigating factors in the present case.

Observations

The Court further observed that adverting to the facts of the present case, the appellant has unintentionally admitted his culpability and the appellant has failed to propound how the elements of kidnapping have not been made out. His core contention appears to be that in view of consensual affair between them, the prosecutrix joined his company voluntarily. Such a plea, in our opinion, cannot be acceded to given the unambiguous language of the statute as the prosecutrix was admittedly below 18 years of age.

The court relied on judgment Satish Kumar Jayanti Lal Dabgar v. State of Gujarat, (2015) 7 SCC 359 and stated that consent of the minor is immaterial for purposes of Section 361 of IPC and provisions in the IPC and other laws like the Indian Contract Act, 1872, minors are deemed incapable of giving lawful consent. Section 361 IPC goes beyond this simple presumption and bestows the ability to make crucial decisions regarding a minor’s physical safety upon his/her guardians. Therefore, a minor girl’s infatuation with her alleged kidnapper cannot by itself be allowed as a defence, for the same would amount to surreptitiously undermining the protective essence of the offence of kidnapping. Similarly, Section 366 of IPC postulates that once the prosecution leads evidence to show that the kidnapping was with the intention/knowledge to compel marriage of the girl or to force/induce her to have illicit intercourse, the enhanced punishment of 10 years as provided thereunder would stand attracted.

The Court further relied on State of Madhya Pradesh v. Surendra Singh, (2015) 1 SCC 222

“13. It is 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. The sentencing courts are expected to consider all relevant facts and circumstances bearing on the question of sentence and proceed to impose a sentence commensurate with the gravity of the offence.

The Court thus observed that there cannot be any mechanical reduction of sentence unless all relevant factors have been weighed and whereupon the Court finds it to be a case of gross injustice, hardship, or palpably capricious award of an unreasonable sentence. The Court further held that “the quantum of sentence awarded to the appellant deserves to be revisited”.

Grounds for revision

  1. No force, no pre-planning, use of any weapon or any vulgar motive had been present in the act of kidnapping.
  2. The young age of the accused at the time of the incident cannot be overlooked.
  3. trial delay at different levels i.e. more than twenty-two years have passed since the incident.
  4. The present crime was one of passion. No other charges, antecedents, or crimes either before 1998 or since then, have been brought to our notice.
  5. There is no grotesque misuse of power, wealth, status or age which needs to be guarded against.

The Court thus held that “the prosecution has established the appellant’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt and that no case of acquittal under Sections 363 and 366 of the IPC is made out. However, the quantum of sentence is reduced to the period of imprisonment already undergone.”

In view of the above, petition was allowed.[Virender Singh v. State of HP, 2021 SCC OnLine HP 280, decided on 04-02-2021]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together.

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

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: Sanjay Dhar J., while allowing the present bail application, observed that given to the relationship shared between the prosecutrix and the petitioner, it cannot be determined at once whether physical relationship built therein was forced or consensual.

Through the present application, petitioner-accused has sought bail in the case arising out of an offence under Section 376 Penal Code, 1860 registered with Police Station, Katra. It is the case of prosecutrix that the petitioner cohabited and thereby developed physical relation with her on a false pretext of marriage. Upon coming to know that the petitioner is to enter into a wedlock with some other woman, the prosecutrix narrated the entire incident to her mother upon which a complaint under Section 376 IPC was registered against the petitioner. According to the petitioner, the allegations made in the FIR are vexatious and baseless and that no offence under Section 376 IPC is made out against him as even if it is assumed that there was any physical relationship between the petitioner and the prosecutrix, the same was consensual. Further, the petitioner has denied having made any false promise of marriage to the prosecutrix.

Court summarized the principles governing the grant or refusal of bail in the following points;

  1. The gravity of the offence and the nature of the accusation including severity of punishment in the case of conviction.
  2. The position and status of the accused vis-à-vis the victims or witnesses.
  3. The likelihood of the accused fleeing from justice.
  4. The possibility of the accused tampering with the evidence and/or witnesses and obstructing the course of justice.
  5. The possibility of repetition of the offence.
  6. The prima facie satisfaction of the Court in support of the charge including frivolity of the charge.
  7. Stage of the investigation.
  8. Larger interest of the public or the State.

Further, the Court placed reliance on the case of, Mahipal v. Rajesh Kumar and another, (2020) 2 SCC 118, wherein it was said, “…No straight jacket formula exists for courts to assess an application for the grant or rejection of bail. At the stage of assessing whether a case is fit for the grant of bail, the court is not required to enter into a detailed analysis of the evidence on record to establish beyond reasonable doubt the commission of the crime by the accused. That is a matter for trial. However, the Court is required to examine whether there is a prima facie or reasonable ground to believe that the accused had committed the offence and on a balance of the considerations involved, the continued custody of the accused sub-serves the purpose of the criminal justice system.”

 Another case bearing similar facts was cited by the Court, Uday v. State of Karnataka, (2003) 4 SCC 46, wherein the Supreme Court observed,

It usually happens in such cases, when two young persons are madly in love, that they promise to each other several times that come what may, they will get married. As stated by the prosecutrix the appellant also made such a promise on more than one occasion. In such circumstances, the promise loses all significance, particularly when they are over come with emotions and passion and find themselves in situations and circumstances where they, in a weak moment, succumb to the temptation of having sexual relationship. This is what appears to have happened in this case as well, and the prosecutrix willingly consented to having sexual intercourse with the appellant with whom she was deeply in love, not because he promised to marry her, but because she also desired it. In these circumstances, it would be very difficult to impute to the appellant knowledge that the prosecutrix had consented in consequence of a misconception of fact arising from his promise. In any event, it was not possible for the appellant to know what was in the mind of the prosecutrix when she consented, because there were more reasons than one for her to consent

It was conclusively observed by the Court,

“The mystery that has to be unravelled by the investigating agency in such circumstances would be whether the consent of the prosecutrix to have sexual intercourse with petitioner was a consensual and deliberate choice on her part or it was obtained on account of misconception of fact on the basis of a false promise of marriage. This Court would not like to comment on this aspect of the matter at this stage, but then the material on record does suggest that there was deep-seated love between the petitioner and the prosecutrix.”

While allowing the present bail application Court said,

“Having regard to the long standing love affair between the prosecutrix and the petitioner coupled with the manner in which they have lived with each other for months together, a prima facie case for grant of bail is made out.”  [Rahul Raina v. Union Territory J&K, 2021 SCC OnLine J&K 13, decided on 27-01-2021]


Sakshi Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

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]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: R. Pongiappan, J., observed that:

“…saptpadi for Hindus is the necessary requirement, which if completed make a marriage valid in the eyes of law provided the parties are of sound mind and don’t fall within the prohibited degrees of relationship with each other.”

Instant appeal was filed to set aside the judgment and conviction passed by Sessions Judge.

Accused was charged for the offences under Sections 366 and 376(1) of Penal Code, 1860.

Analysis and Decision

Bench noted that in respect to alleged marriage, PW 10 who is the victim girl had stated before the trial Court that on the date of occurrence, both herself and the accused ran away from the village and accused tied thali to her. In light of the said evidence, it appeared that the victim girl had also consented for the marriage.

Additional Public Prosecutor appearing for the State contended that since the alleged marriage had happened to the victim was at the age of 15 years and 10 months, the said marriage is not legally valid and also the same has not been solemnised as per Hindu rites and customs.

This Court also found that the girl had not completed the age of 16 years at the time of above-stated alleged marriage for which she consented

Further, the Bench observed that during the time of occurrence, the accused had induced the victim girl to go to Palani and afterwards, he tied a thali, Section 361 of IPC was referred which talks about the “kidnapping from lawful guardianship”.

Applying the abovesaid provision along with Section 366 IPC, Court stated that the victim girl was kidnapped for the purpose of marrying her.

Void Marriage

“… a marriage in which either the girl is below 18 years of age, or the boy is below 21 years of age is child marriage.”

Court expressed that in our country, the essential condition for the validity of any marriage is solemnization of the religious ceremonies prescribed by the religion to which the parties belong.

In respect to the instant matter, it was found that the accused and victim girl had not performed the necessary religious ceremonies prescribed by the religion and since the victim girl was of 16 years of age, the alleged marriage with the accused was void.

Sexual Intercourse

With regard to alleged forcible sexual intercourse, it was found that victim girl stayed the accused for a considerable period but during that time, she did not seek for help or even try running away from the place, the said attitude of the victim girl proves that the alleged sexual intercourse had happened only with her consent.

Section 375 IPC

As per the definition of Section 375 IPC, since the victim girl had not completed the age of 18 years at the time of occurrence, according to 6th description of the said Section, Court found that the accused had committed an offence of rape.

Therefore trial Court’s finding of charging the accused under Sections 366 and 376(1) IPC was within four corners of law and no infirmity was found in the said findings.

Since both the victim girl and accused got married themselves and separated along with respective spouses, Court modified the sentence as 5 years instead of 7 years under Section 366 IPC and for the offence under Section 376(1) IPC, Court modified the sentence as 7 years instead of 10 years.

Hence, the Criminal Appeal was partly allowed.[Prakash v. State, 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 6025, decided on 30-11-2020]


Advocates who appeared before the Court:

For Appellant: B. Thirumalai for S.Nagarajan

For Respondent: S. Karthikeyan Additional Public Prosecutor

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Vibhu Bakhru, J., observed that it is difficult to accept that continuing with an intimate relationship, which also involves engaging in sexual activity over a significant period of time, can be construed as involuntary and secured not by affection but only on the lure of marriage.

The instant appeal was filed impugning the judgment wherein the accused was acquitted of the offences punishable under Section 417/376 of the Penal Code, 1860.

Prosecutions case rested almost entirely on the statements of the testimony of the complainant. From the testimony, it was apparent that no dispute existed between the appellant and accused and the relationship was consensual.

Bench found no infirmity with the trial court’s decision, as a bare reading of the complaint made by the appellant as well as her testimony clearly indicated that even according to her, her relationship with the accused was consensual.

Her allegation that her consent has been vitiated on account of having been obtained by misrepresentation, is clearly, unsustainable.

In Supreme Court’s decision of Pramod Suryabhan Pawar v. State of Maharashtra, (2019) 9 SCC 608, it was held that:

“Court has repeatedly held that consent with respect to Section 375 of the IPC involves an active understanding of the circumstances, actions and consequences of the proposed act.

Where the promise to marry is false and the intention of the maker at the time of making the promise itself was not to abide by it but to deceive the woman to convince her to engage in sexual relations, there is a “misconception of fact” that vitiates the woman’s “consent”. On the other hand, a breach of a promise cannot be said to be a false promise.”

Trial Court had noted that according to the complaint, the appellant stated that she had a physical relationship with the accused in the year 2008 and after 3-4 months, thereafter he had promised to marry her.

In view of the said statement, her allegation that her consent to engage in sexual activity is vitiated, as the same was secured on a promise to get married is —UNSUSTAINABLE.

Inducement to have a physical relationship by promising marriage and the victim falling prey to such inducement may be understandable in the context of the moment.

A promise of marriage cannot be held out as an inducement for engaging in sex over a protracted and indefinite period of time.

Bench also observed that the present appeal was filed after an inordinate delay of 640 days and no credible explanation was placed in that regard.

Hence, the appeal was unmerited and it was accordingly dismissed. [X v. State (Govt of NCT of Delhi), 2020 SCC OnLine Del 1631, decided on 15-12-2020]


Advocates who appeared in the matter:

Appellant: Saurabh Kansal, Advocate

Respondents: Ravi Nayak, APP for State with SI Preeti, PS Malviya Nagar.

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]