- Courts should not harass a rape survivor by asking her for evidence
- There should not be any “doubt, disbelief or suspicion”, said the bench
- A rape complaint could not be declared as false because of delay in lodging the case, SC said
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and A M Sapre said the testimony of a victim in cases of sexual offences is vital and accused can be convicted solely on the basis of her statements. It said that courts could sought corroboration of her statements only in rarest of rare case and when there was compelling reasons to do so.
“Seeking corroboration to a statement before relying upon the same as a rule, in such cases, would literally amount to adding insult to injury. The deposition of the prosecutrix has, thus, to be taken as a whole. Needless to reiterate that the victim of rape is not an accomplice and her evidence can be acted upon without corroboration. She stands at a higher pedestal than an injured witness does,” the bench said.
Justice Sikri, who wrote the judgment for the bench said that evidence of the girl or the woman who complains of rape or sexual molestation should not be viewed with “the aid of spectacles fitted with lenses tinged with doubt, disbelief or suspicion”.
“If the court finds it difficult to accept her version, it may seek corroboration from some evidence which lends assurance to her version. To insist on corroboration, except in the rarest of rare cases, is to equate one who is a victim of the lust of another with an accomplice to a crime and thereby insult womanhood. It would be adding insult to injury to tell a woman that her claim of rape will not be believed unless it is corroborated in material particulars, as in the case of an accomplice to a crime,” it said.
The bench passed the order while sentencing a man to twelve years of imprisonment for raping his nine-year-old niece. It set aside the order of Himachal Pradesh HC which had acquitted the accused on the ground of minor discrepancies in the statements of the girl and her mother.
The HC had held that there was delay in lodging FIR by the victim’s family as the case was registered three years after the incident. Setting aside HC order, the bench said that a rape complaint could not be declared as false because of delay in lodging the case as the reluctance to go to the police was because of social stigma associated with such cases.
“A decision to lodge FIR becomes more difficult and hard when accused happens to be a family member. In fact, incestuous abuse is still regarded as a taboo to be discussed in pubic. This reticence hurts the victims or other family members who struggle to report. After all, in such a situation, not only the honour of the family is at stake, it may antagonize other relations as well,” the bench said.
“Various studies show that in more than 80% cases of such abuses, perpetrators have acquaintance with the victims who are not strangers. The danger is more within than outside. Most of the time, acquaintance rapes, when the culprit is a family member, are not even reported for various reasons, not difficult to fathom,” it said.