News Details

Statement of Rape victim is enough for conviction

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                     CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1410  OF  2013
Ravindra                                  ... Appellant
State of Madhya Pradesh                ... Respondent
                               J U D G M E N T
Pinaki Chandra Ghose, J.
This appeal by special leave  arises  from  the  judgment  and  order  dated 12.3.2013 passed by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, Bench  at  Indore,  in Criminal Appeal No.1275 of 1997  whereby  the  High  Court  has  upheld  the sentence  awarded  to  the  appellant  by  the  Additional  Sessions  Judge, Khargone, in S.T. No. 288/94. The Trial Court convicted the appellant  under Section 376(1) of the Indian Penal Code ("IPC",  for  short)  and  sentenced him to 10 years rigorous imprisonment with a fine  of  Rs.  2000/-,  and  in default of payment of fine, 6 months simple imprisonment.
The  factual  matix  of  the  case  is  that  on  24.8.94,  the  complainant Narmadabai had gone to the field of the accused Ravindra  for  doing  labour work. When she was plucking Moong  Beans  at  about  12  O'  clock,  accused Ravindra came near her, caught her  hand,  pushed  her  down  and  committed sexual intercourse without her consent. Complainant  cried  but  nobody  was nearby. The Petticoat of the complainant  was  stained  with  semen  of  the accused. After committing rape the accused fled  away  from  the  spot.  The prosecutrix (PW1) came home and she narrated the incident  to  her  parents. Her mother called her maternal uncles, Shankar Singh  (PW4)  and  Pahadsingh (PW5) and father of the prosecutrix. On the same day, an FIR was  lodged  by the prosecutrix (PW1) at Police Station Bhikagaon. The complainant  and  the accused were medically examined by Smt. Vandana Sarkanungo (PW3) and gave  a report.  On 1.09.1994 accused was arrested vide arrest memo. The clothes  of
the prosecutrix and the accused were sent to the FSL.  After  completion  of the investigation, charge sheet was filed before  the  Judicial  Magistrate, First Class, Bhikagaon, against the accused under Section 376 IPC which  was registered as Criminal Case No.590/94.
The findings of the lower Court, as stated in  the  impugned  judgment  were that at the time of occurrence the prosecutrix (PW-1) was above 16 years  of age. PW1 in her statement very categorically  made  allegation  against  the present appellant that when she was alone in the agricultural field  of  the appellant/accused, he came and forcefully caught hold  of  both  her  hands, and thereafter removed her clothes and  committed  rape.  Dr.  Smt.  Vandana Sarkanungo (PW3) did not find any injury on the internal and  external  part of the prosecutrix (PW1) and opined that prosecutrix was habitual to  sexual intercourse.  In respect of the false implication on the appellant,  it  has
come on record in the statement of Nand Kishore (PW2), who is father of  the prosecutrix, that a sum of Rs.500/- was  taken  on  loan  by  him  from  the appellant. But PW1 and PW2 have  not  deposed  that  due  to  the  aforesaid reason there was previous enmity between them. The finding  on  this  aspect of the High Court in the  impugned  judgment  was  that  if  there  was  any enmity, the appellant/accused could not  have  come  to  the  house  of  the prosecutrix for  inviting  her  to  work  in  his  agricultural  field.  The appellant/accused was examined by  the  doctor  who  found  him  capable  of performing sexual intercourse. Semen was found in the undergarments  of  the prosecutrix, from the exhibit.
After considering the evidence adduced by the parties, the  High  Court  was of the view that it is well settled that  the  woman  who  is  a  victim  of sexual assault is not an accomplice to the crime.  Her  evidence  cannot  be tested with suspicion as that of an accomplice. As  a  matter  of  fact  her evidence is similar to the evidence of an injured  complainant  or  witness. The testimony of the  prosecutrix,  if  found  reliable  by  itself  may  be sufficient to convict the culprit and no corroboration of  her  evidence  is necessary. Secondly, in prosecution  of  rape,  the  law  does  not  require
corroboration. The evidence of the prosecutrix may sustain a conviction.  It is  only  by  way  of  abundant  caution  that  Court  may  look  for   some corroboration so as to  satisfy  its  conscience  and  rule  out  any  false accusations. Thus, the High Court was of the view that the Trial  Court  had not committed any error in convicting the appellant  under  Section  376  of IPC. The statement of the prosecutrix was reliable. Prompt  FIR  was  lodged by her and no further corroboration of her statement was required.
Learned counsel for the appellant submitted that the  Trial  Court  and  the High Court ignored the contradictions in the statements of  the  prosecutrix Smt. Narmadabai (PW1) and Nand Kishore (PW2) on the  question,  whether  the prosecutrix was called in the field in the morning or in the afternoon or  a day in advance.  The High Court also committed an  error  in  accepting  the finding of the Trial Court without any evidence, that no  injury  was  found on her body as rape was  committed  on  the  sand.  Counsel  submitted  that except some sand on her clothes, no statement was given by  the  prosecutrix that the incident took place on plain soil, ruling out  any  possibility  of
injury. In view of the medical examination of the prosecutrix, Dr.  Vandana, who examined her, did  not  give  any  definite  opinion  about  rape  being committed on the prosecutrix and there were no injury on her  private  parts or other part of body though as per her statement the rape was committed  in the field having standing crop, 5 feet high  Jawar  crop  and  4  feet  high Moong crop. The prosecutrix also stated that she grappled in the  field  for 15-20 minutes, but no signs of injury were found either on  the  prosecutrix or on the appellant. Appellant's  statement  is  also  contradicted  by  the medical evidence.
According  to  the  learned  counsel  for  the  appellant,  the  High  Court committed an error in placing reliance on Sheikh Zakir vs. State  of  Bihar, AIR 1983  SC  911,  and  holding  that  no  corroboration  is  required  for convicting the accused under Section 376, on  account  of  a  long  line  of judicial decisions which held that where a case is tried by a  judge  alone, and is based on evidence of the prosecutrix without  any  corroboration,  it will not be illegal on that sole ground. In case of a grown up  and  married woman it is safe to insist on such corroboration. Further, it was argued  by
the counsel for the appellant that the High Court made an error  by  placing reliance in the case of State of U.P. v. Chhoteylal, AIR 2011 SC 697, as  it was not applicable to the present matter.
Counsel for the appellant further submitted  that  this  was  a  case  where there was a possibility of  consent  of  the  prosecutrix.  The  prosecutrix tried to show that she was less than 16 years, which is found  to  be  false in the present case. The medical evidence  shows  that  her  hymen  was  old ruptured and it was in the healing stage. The  medical  examination  report had given no definite opinion regarding rape. The statement of  Dr.  Vandana (PW3) also supported that  view  as  no  injury  either  on  the  person  of Narmadabai or on her private parts was found. Her hymen being  old  ruptured was in healing condition. There was no injury on any  of  them  even  though
the incident took place in 5 feet Jawar crop and 4 feet Moong crop and  they had grappled for 15-20 minutes.
In view of the admitted statements of PW1 and PW2 that  before  lodging  the report, they made offer for compromise to the appellant's  father  and  when the appellant's father did not agree for compromise, they  lodged  the  FIR. Nand Kishore (PW2) has himself admitted that he received Rs.500/-  from  the appellant's father some 3-4 years ago but had not  returned  the  same  till that date. Thus, a false case has been fastened  since  a  demand  had  been made for the return of the amount. PW4 and PW5, who  are  the  two  maternal uncles of the prosecutrix, did  not  support  her  and  they  were  declared hostile.
Further,  the  learned  counsel,  relying  on  the  Trail  Court   judgment, contended that the Prosecutrix has failed to  establish  that  her  age  was below 16 years and in view of the fact that there was no  sign  of  rape  or any injury, the present case, at the most, is a case of consent.
Learned counsel appearing for the State, on the other hand,  has  relied  on the fact of presence of semen on the Petticoat of  the  prosecutrix.  It  is submitted that the Chemical Examiner report found that the sample  of  semen found on the garments was not sufficient to link the same with the  accused.
Now, we shall examine whether this case falls under proviso to  Section  376 IPC, to award a lesser sentence for "adequate and special  reason".  In  the present case, the incident took place 20 years ago and now with  passage  of time both victim and accused are married (not to each other) and  they  have entered into  a  compromise.  Thus,  an  adequate  and  special  reason  for awarding a lesser sentence exists in terms of proviso to Section 376.
Learned Counsel  for  the  appellant  has  taken  four  primary  grounds  of defence. First, that there is no sign of injury on the body  of  the  victim and no definite opinion of rape is given by the PW-3, though there had  been grappling for 15-20 minutes between the victim  and  the  accused.  However, the victim has stated that she did not scratch  the  accused  and  that  the accused caught hold of her hand and put her down and committed rape  in  the field. From this it can be inferred that rape was committed  on  the  ground in the field. But it is highly improbable that their clothes would not  tear and there would not be any injury on the body of  the  victim.  In  Dastagir
Sab & Anr. v. State of Karnataka, (2004) 3 SCC 106,  it  was  held  by  this
Court that presence of injury on the body of the victim is not  a  sine  qua non to prove the charge of rape. In the said case,  the  facts  showed  that medical examination was conducted after a month of the alleged offence.  The medical opinion was that abrasion or marks of violence would be visible  for twenty four hours and thereafter the same  may  disappear.  In  the  present case, the medical examination was done on the same day on which the  alleged offence was committed, and going by the medical examination report  and  the statement of P.W.3, it is improbable that rape was committed.
The second ground  taken  by  the  defence  is  that  there  is  absence  of spermatozoa in the vaginal swab of the victim and the  Chemical  Examination report found that the sample of semen found on the garments  of  the  victim was insufficient to link the  same  with  the  accused.  On  the  aspect  of benefit of doubt, this Court has observed in Hem Raj v.  State  of  Haryana, (2014) 2 SCC 395, that prosecution had brought on record  FSL  report  which showed that human semen was detected on the salwar of  the  prosecutrix  and on the underwear of the accused. However it  was  difficult  to  infer  from this that the prosecutrix was raped by the accused. The  appellant  in  that
case was given benefit of doubt.
In the present case, the Chemical Examiner report found that the  sample  of semen was not sufficient to link the same to  the  accused,  notwithstanding that absence of spermatozoa on the vaginal smear could  not  be  allowed  to tell against the version of the  prosecutrix,  as  held  in  Narayanamma  v. State of Karnataka & Ors., (1994) 5 SCC 728.
The third ground of defence taken  by  the  accused  is  that  there  is  no corroboration  and  there  is  contradiction  in  the  prosecution  case  on important aspects, though on the aspect of appreciation of  evidence,  being the testimony of the prosecutrix, this Court  has held in Narendra Kumar  v. State (NCT of Delhi),  (2012)  7  SCC  171,  that  minor  contradictions  or insignificant discrepancies in the evidence of the witnesses are  not  of  a substantial character.  However,  in  Sadashiv  Ramrao  Hadbe  v.  State  of Maharashtra  &  Anr.,  (2006)  10  SCC  92,  where  the  sole  testimony  is
unsupported by any medical evidence or the whole  surrounding  circumstances are highly improbable to belie the case set  up  by  the  prosecutrix,  this Court held that Court  shall  not  act  on  the  solitary  evidence  of  the prosecutrix. Thus, in light of the above the Court should  not  rely  solely on the testimony of the prosecutrix.  The  statement  in  the  present  case requires  corroboration  as  it  has  minor  contradictions   and   is   not corroborated by other prosecution witnesses. The two maternal uncles   (PW-4 and PW-5) of the prosecutrix did not support her and were declared  hostile.
The fourth ground of defence taken by the appellant is  that  under  proviso to Section 376(2) of IPC, the legislature has empowered the Court  to  award lesser sentence where "adequate and special reasons" exist. The incident  in the present case had taken place 20 years ago. The victim (prosecutrix)  and the accused  have  entered  into  a  compromise  stating  therein  that  the prosecutrix does not want to proceed with the case against the  accused  and wants to close the case. Both of them are married (not to  each  other)  and have settled in life. Learned counsel for the appellant contends  that  this is an "adequate and special reason" for awarding lesser sentence.
This Court has in the case of Baldev  Singh  &  Ors.  v.  State  of  Punjab, (2011) 13 SCC 705, invoked the proviso to Section 376 (2) (g) of IPC on  the consideration that the case was an old one. The  facts  of  the  above  case also state that there was compromise entered into between the parties.
In light of the discussion in  the  foregoing  paragraphs,  we  are  of  the opinion that the case of the appellant  is  a  fit  case  for  invoking  the proviso to Section 376(2)(g) of IPC for awarding  lesser  sentence,  as  the incident is 20 years old and the fact that the parties are married and  have entered into a compromise, are the adequate and special reasons.  Therefore, although we uphold the conviction of the appellant but reduce  the  sentence to the period already undergone by the appellant. The appeal is disposed  of
                                                   (M.Y. EQBAL)
                                                   (PINAKI CHANDRA GHOSE)
New Delhi;
February 26, 2015.