In two separate cases, Justice Indermeet Kaur awarded punishment of 10-year rigorous imprisonment to the accused for gang-raping a woman in a moving bus. One of the incidents had occurred in 2001 while the other had been committed way back in the year 1992.
In the 2001 incident, the victim had alleged that she was gang-raped by 3 persons when she was travelling in a bus. She had then noted the bus number on her palm and dictated her story to a constable on patrol duty. The helper of the bus had witnessed the incident. He had tried to save her but was unsuccessful.
The accused had pleaded innocence; however no evidence was submitted to support the claim. The advocate for the appellants, Mr. Jitender Sethi submitted that there were several irregularities in the submissions of the respondent. She had also accepted that she is illiterate and her complaint wasn't read out to her when she signed it. It was therefore contended that the judgment of the trial judge convicting the appellants suffers from an illegality and is liable to be set aside. The appellants claimed that in such a case where the testimony of the victim herself is infirm; no other corroborative evidence can be looked into.
The Court agreed by stating that a witness who resiles from his earlier complaint and does not support the version set up by the prosecution on oath in Court is a witness who has to be tested with great caution and circumspection. However, after such circumspection, it found the witness reliable and his testimony acceptable.
The Public Prosecutor countered the arguments by claiming that on no count does the impugned judgment call for any interference; even if a witness is hostile a conviction can still be based on the corroborative evidence.
The appellants had also relied on absence of any injury marks, submitting that if there was a forcible gang rape by three persons some kind of injury would have been noted on the person of the victim; she would have obviously resisted such an act. The Court however, completely discarded this argument and stated that the Apex Court has time and again reiterated that merely because no injuries were found on the victim it could not be an establishing factor to conclude that the victim had in fact not been raped.
Dismissing the appeal, Justice Kaur lastly added that, the barbaric, gruesome and heinous crime committed by the appellants calls for no lesser punishment than the minimum that has been engrafted by the Legislature.
In the second case, which had been committed way back in 1992, the victim was allegedly raped in a minibus, by spreading four seats of the bus on the rear portion of the bus. The two accused were found in a comprising position with the victim, by a Head Constable.
Thereafter, the defence counsel had argued that the victim was a call girl and was habitual to sexual intercourse. The Public Prosecutor pleaded ignorance of minor discrepancies in the court, keeping in view the trauma suffered by the victim—physical, emotional and psychological—as also the fact that the incident was of the year 1992 and she had appeared thereafter on several occasions and being grilled by the defence counsel.
Justice Kaur affirmed the 10 year sentence and rejected the presence of any "adequate" and "special" reasons for reducing the sentence.
These two cases would reminiscently remind anyone of the gruesome Delhi gang-rape, which had also been committed in a bus. However, these cases predate the infamous Delhi gang-rape by a decade and two decades respectively.
The two incidents display the display the differences in the policy changes over time, as well the similarities of arguments. All the three cases saw questioning of the character of the victim by the authorities as well as during the trial. However, the upsurge after the 2012 Delhi gang rape and the subsequent Report by Justive Verma Committee which led to the promulgation of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 brings a ray hope in improving the system of trial of the accused as well as handling of the victims in rape cases. Although certain key reforms, such as penalizing marital rape, reduction of age of consent and amending Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act so that no sanction is needed for prosecuting an armed force personnel accused of a crime against woman, put forward by the Justice Verma Committee weren't included in the Act, it was a welcome first step towards further reform.
Read the judgment [PUSHPINDERA v. STATE OF NCT OF DELHI]
Read the judgment [SHANKAR v. STATE]
Read scholarly article of Justice U. L. Bhatt "Prosecutrix in a Rape Case – Evaluation of Evidence"
Part I here & Part II here.
Read the Story on Supreme Court Judgment which ruled out the presence of injuries on a victim as a necessary proof of rape, here
Read Story on Supreme Court Judgment regarding the recording of statement of Rape Victim by Magistrate here.
Read Story on Supreme Court Guidelines for Forensic Medical Care of Rape Victims here.
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