Delhi HC Acquits Rape Accused On Benefit Of Doubt [Read Judgment]
The Delhi High Court in Hari Chand vs. State, has acquitted a man, earlier convicted by a trial court for committing rape.
Speaking for the court, Justice SP Garg took the decision as material infirmities or inconsistencies had emerged in the statements of prosecution witnesses, making it unsafe to base conviction on the solitary testimony of the woman alleged to have been raped.
The woman, a mother of two children aged 14 and 16 years, was a tenant of the accused Hari and on the day of the incident, he had gone to collect rent from her at her place.
She alleged that as she was alone, Hari took advantage and committed rape upon her.
Upon investigation, the statements of the witnesses were recorded and Hari was convicted by the trial court in 2009 to undergo a rigorous imprisonment of 10 years along with a fine of Rs 10,000.
The prosecution’s case was based entirely on the woman’s testimony, full of major inconsistencies, thus, giving a benefit of doubt to Hari.
At the time of the police complaint, the woman submitted that one week before the reported incident, Hari had come to her house and finding her alone, committed rape upon her.
The court observed this to be highly unacceptable as the woman had not mentioned anything such as rape being committed upon her a week before the incident, as she and her husband should have approached the authorities and not waited for another week before allegedly the man committed the offence when she was lying on her bed in her rented accommodation.
The court noted that on the day of the incident, the woman had admitted that there was no forced entry of Hari into the house and she had even prepared tea with him and welcomed him.
The court opined that if he had raped the woman a week earlier, it made no sense as to why she would have made him feel so welcome at home.
The bench held: “Victim’s conduct appears unnatural and unreasonable. The possibility of the victim to be a consenting party in the episode cannot be ruled out.”
There was an inconsistent version that the husband and the children of the woman were present in the house soon after the incident. It was pertinently noted that during trial, neither the victim’s husband nor her children were examined. Upon medical examination of the woman, her clothes weren’t torn and there were no visible signs of serious injury inflicted upon her, which was again inconsistent with her testimony.
It’s a settled legal position that a court can return a finding of guilt for offence punishable under Section 376 IPC only if the prosecution is able to first prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offence where after the next step is of ascertaining the consent, in case the prosecutrix is major. However in this case, the bench held:
“Taking into consideration, the inherent defects in the prosecution case, the vital infirmities and discrepancies in the statements of the prosecution witnesses, the version given by the prosecutrix cannot be considered cogent and convincing to base conviction in the absence of any independent corroboration.”
Thus, setting aside the sentence of accused Hari, the court held:
“In the light of above discussion, conviction and sentence recorded by the trial court cannot be sustained. The appellant deserves benefit of doubt.”
Read the Judgment here.
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