The Allahabad High Court has recently observed that the ‘character’ of a rape victim was still not an ‘absolutely irrelevant’ circumstance in a rape trial.
While acquitting all three accused in a gang rape case, Justice Ranjana Pandya observed as follows:
“Law recognises that a woman even of easy virtue, or even a whore for that matter, has personal dignity and honour. She cannot be violated. It must however be conceded that immoral character would still not be an absolutely irrelevant circumstance. It may render the story itself as incredible. It may take away probative force of the story, told as it is by a woman with no scruples or morals.”
The court was hearing an appeal filed by the accused against judgment by the second additional sessions judge, Barabanki, whereby the accused were found guilty and sentenced for five years' rigorous imprisonment under Section 376 IPC coupled with a fine of Rs. 1000 each with default stipulation.
As per the prosecution, a report was lodged by one Lalloo Awasthi stating that a transport company was being run at the flat of Shiv Karan Singh Chaurasiya. In one of the rooms of the flat, Shiv Karan’s servants named Vijay and Bharat, and Hari Shanker Chaurasiya raped a girl. When the girl raised an alarm, the informant Lalloo Awasthi made his companion Udai Narayan stand near the place of occurrence and went to inform the police.
During the 313 examination, accused Hari Shanker Chaurasiya had stated that he was tenant of flat no. 1, which was in the tenancy of Chaurasiya Transport, and Shiv Karan was the houseowner. Shiv Karan wanted to get the property vacated for which this accused was not willing, hence he was falsely implicated.Accused Bharat stated that the victim wanted a gas connection from him and wanted to take a hot plate and cylinder on credit, but when he refused, he was falsely implicated. Accused Vijay, while denying the occurrence, stated that the victim wanted to join a job in Narayan Gas Service but Vijay was a hindrance for the victim to get the job. The victim threatened to lodge a false case against him. The accused have not produced any evidence in defence.
The court observed that, keeping in view the fact that as per the victim, she was raped by three persons, twice by each and one of the accused also slapped her, thus, in this case corroboration as a condition for judicial reliance on the testimony of the prosecutrix is not a requirement of law, but a guidance of prudence under given circumstances.
The court said there were contradictions in the previous statements of victim.
“Although in the statement under Section 164 CrPC, she has stated that initially Vijay raped her, then Bharat raped her and later on Hari Shanker Chaurasiya raped her.
The victim PW-3 in her statement before the court has stated that initially Vijay and Bharat raped her. After that they left the room and Hari Shanker came in the room and raped her, and while she was being raped, Vijay slapped her. Further she has stated that after raping her, all the three accused left the room and locked the room from outside. This witness had to undergo the test of cross-examination in which she has stated that the accused Vijay and Bharat were known to her from before, but Hari Shanker was not known to her. If the accused Hari Shanker Chaurasiya was not known to her, a million dollar question arises as to how she came to know about the identity of the accused Hari Shanker Chaurasiya.”
The court entered into a finding that the statement of the victim and the story narrated by the victim is full of contradictions, unreliable, unworthy of credence and does not inspire confidence.
“The unreliable and contradictory statement of the victim coupled with the absence of injuries, which were said to have been sustained by the victim, renders the whole prosecution case improbable and doubtful,” the order stated.
Recently a Supreme Court judgment, which acquitted the accused in a gang rape case, invited criticism from activists and women’s organisations.
In the above case, the Supreme Court had observed that
“Her conduct during the alleged ordeal is also unlike a victim of forcible rape and betrays somewhat submissive and consensual disposition. From the nature of the exchanges between her and the accused as narrated by her, the same are not at all consistent with those of an unwilling, terrified and anguished victim of forcible intercourse, if judged by the normal human conduct.”
It is to be noted that by the 2003 Amendment, Section 155 (4) of the Indian Evidence Act, which allowed the immoral character of prosecutrix as a tool for defence, to impeach her credit, was removed from statute book.
[Section 155 (4) — impeaching the Credit of Witness — “When a man is prosecuted for rape or an attempt to ravish, it may be shown that the prosecutrix was of generally immoral character.”]
Read the Judgment here.
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