“Court’s Approach to Prosecutrix Testimony in Sexual Assault Cases” (Transcription No. 36)

                    This Court in a long line of cases has given wider meaning to the word ‘consent’ in the context of sexual offences as explained in various judicial dictionaries. A woman who is 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, the evidence of the prosecutrix is similar to the evidence of an injured complainant or witness. The testimony of prosecutrix, if found to be reliable, by itself, may be sufficient to convict the culprit and no corroboration of her evidence is necessary. In prosecutions of rape, the law does not require corroboration. 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. In examining the evidence of the prosecutrix the courts must be alive to the conditions prevalent in the Indian society and must not be swayed by beliefs in other countries. The courts must be sensitive and responsive to the plight of the female victim of sexual assault. The stigma that attaches to the victim of rape in Indian society, ordinarily, rules out the leveling of false accusations. The observations made in the case of Bharwada Bhoginbhai Hirjibhai must be kept in mind invariably while dealing with a rape case. The contention on behalf of the respondent that no alarm was required by the prosecutrix at the bus stand or the other places where she was taken and that creates serious doubt about truthfulness of her evidence, overlooks the situation in which the prosecutrix was placed. She had been kidnapped by two adult males, one of them – A-1 wielded fire-arm and threatened her and she was taken away from her village, and kept in a rented room for many days where A-1 had sexual intercourse with her. Whenever she asked A-1 for return to her village, she was threatened and her mouth was gagged. The absence of alarm by her at the public place cannot lead to an inference that she had willingly accompanied A-1 and A-2. The circumstances made her submissive victim and that does not mean that she was inclined and willing to intercourse with A-1. She had no free act of the mind during her stay with A-1 as she was under constant fear. Although there are certain contradictions and omissions in her testimony, but such omissions and contradictions are minor and on material aspects, her evidence is consistent. The prosecutrix being illiterate and rustic young woman, some contradictions and omissions are natural in her recollection, observance, memory and narration of chain of events may not be precise. Except the bald statement of A-1 u/s 313 Cr.P.C. that he has been falsely implicated due to enmity, nothing has been brought on record that may probabalise that the prosecutrix had motive to falsely implicate him. The circumstances even do not remotely suggest that the prosecutrix would put her reputation and chastity at stake for the reason stated by A-1 u/s 313 Cr.P.C. that a case was pending between A-1 and one ‘SR’. The evidence of the prosecutrix is reliable and has rightly been acted upon by the trial court. Although the lady doctor did not find any injury on the external or internal part of body of the prosecutrix and opined that the prosecutrix was habitual to sexual intercourse but, that does not make the testimony of the prosecutrix unreliable. The fact of the matter is that the prosecutrix was recovered almost after three weeks. Obviously, the sign of forcible intercourse would not persist for that long period. It is wrong to assume that in all cases of intercourse with the women against will or without consent, there would be some injury on the external or internal part of the victim. The prosecutrix has clearly deposed that she was not in a position to put up any struggle as she was taken away from her village by two adult males. The absence of injuries on the person of the prosecutrix is not sufficient to discredit her evidence; she was a helpless victim. Due to fear she did not and could not inform the neighbours where she was kept. As regards the belated FIR, suffice it to observe that PW-1 he deposed that when he returned to his home in the evening from agricultural field, he was informed that his sister (prosecutrix) who had gone to ease herself had not returned. He searched for her and he was told by the two villagers that she was seen with the accused in the fields. (800)

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