State of Punjab v. Gurmit Singh1 ,

it has been held that a conviction can be founded on the testimony of prosecutrix alone unless there are compelling reasons for seeking corroboration. It is further held that her evidence is more reliable than that of an injured witness. The bench said that The courts must, while evaluating evidence, remain alive to the fact that in a case of rape, no self-respecting woman would come forward in a court just to make a humiliating statement against her honour such as is involved in the commission of rape on her. In cases involving sexual molestation, supposed considerations which have no material effect on the veracity of the prosecution case or even discrepancies in the statement of the prosecutrix should not, unless the discrepancies are such which are of fatal nature, be allowed to throw out an otherwise reliable prosecution case. The inherent bashfulness of the females and the tendency to conceal outrage of sexual aggression are factors which the courts should not overlook. The testimony of the victim in such cases is vital and unless there are compelling reasons which necessitate looking for corroboration of her statement, the courts should find no difficulty to act on the testimony of a victim of sexual assault alone to convict an accused where her testimony inspires confidence and is found to be reliable. Seeking corroboration of her statement before relying upon the same, as a rule, in such cases amounts to adding insult to injury. Why should the evidence of a girl or a woman who complains of rape or sexual molestation, be viewed with doubt, disbelief or suspicion? The court while appreciating the evidence of a prosecutrix may look for some assurance of her statement to satisfy its judicial conscience, since she is a witness who is interested in the outcome of the charge leveled by her, but there is no requirement of law to insist upon corroboration of her statement to base conviction of an accused. The evidence of a victim of sexual assault stands almost on a par with the evidence of an injured witness and to an extent is even more reliable. Just as a witness who has sustained some injury in the occurrence, which is not found to be self-inflicted, is considered to be a good witness in the sense that he is least likely to shield the real culprit, the evidence of a victim of a sexual offence is entitled to great weight, absence of corroboration notwithstanding. Corroborative evidence is not an imperative component of judicial credence in every case of rape. 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. It must not be overlooked that a woman or a girl subjected to sexual assault is not an accomplice to the crime but is a victim of another person’s lust and it is improper and undesirable to test her evidence with a certain amount of suspicion, treating her as if she were an accomplice. Inferences have to be drawn from a given set of facts and circumstances with realistic diversity and not dead uniformity lest that type of rigidity in the shape of rule of law is introduced through a new form of testimonial tyranny making justice a casualty. Courts cannot cling to a fossil formula and insist upon corroboration even if, taken as a whole, the case spoken of by the victim of sex crime strikes the judicial mind a probable.

Sheikh Zakir vs. State of Bihar2

Insofar as non-production of a medical examination report and the clothes which contained semen, the trial court has observed that the complainant being a woman who had given birth to four children it was likely that there would not have been any injuries on her private parts. The complainant and her husband being persons belonging to a backward community like the Santhal tribe living a remote area could not be expected to know that they should rush to a doctor. In fact the complainant has deposed that she had taken bath and washed her clothes after the incident. The absence of any injuries on the person of the complainant may not by itself discredit the statement of the complainant. Merely because the complainant was a helpless victim who was by force prevented from offering serious physical resistance she cannot be disbelieved. In this situation the non-production of a medical report would not be of much consequence if the other evidence on record is believable. It is, however, nobody’s case that there was such a report and it had been withheld.

Ranjit Hazarika vs. State of Assam3 

It was observed by the court that the argument of the learned counsel for the appellant that the medical evidence belies the testimony of the prosecutrix and her parents does not hold good (doesn’t impress the court). The mere fact that no injury was found on the private parts of the prosecutrix or her hymen was found to be intact. And it does not belie the statement of the prosecutrix as she nowhere stated that she bled per vagina as a result of the penetration of the penis in her vagina. She was subjected to sexual intercourse in a standing posture and that itself indicates the absence of any injury on her private parts. To constitute the offence of rape, penetration, however slight, is sufficient. The prosecutrix deposed about the performance of sexual intercourse by the appellant and her statement has remained unchallenged in the cross-examination. Neither the non-rupture of the hymen nor the absence of injuries on her private parts, therefore, belies the testimony of the prosecutrix particularly when it was found that in the cross-examination of the prosecutrix, nothing has been brought out to doubt her veracity or to suggest as to why she would falsely implicate the appellant and put her own reputation at stake. The opinion of the doctor that no rape appeared to have been committed was based only on the absence of rupture of the hymen and injuries on the private parts of the prosecutrix. This opinion cannot throw out an otherwise cogent and trustworthy evidence of the prosecutrix. Besides, the opinion of the doctor appears to be based on “no reasons”.

State of Rajasthan vs. N.K4

Having heard the arguments presented by the learned counsel for both the parties, the court was the opinion that the (Rajasthan) High Court was not justified in reversing the conviction of the respondent and recording the order of acquittal. It is true that the golden thread which runs throughout the cobweb of criminal jurisprudence as administered in India is that nine guilty may escape but one innocent should not suffer. But at the same time no guilty should escape unpunished once the guilt has been proved to hilt. An unmerited acquittal does no good to the society. If the prosecution has succeeded in making out a convincing case for recording a finding as to the accused being guilty, the court should not lean in favour of acquittal by giving weight to irrelevant or insignificant circumstances or by resorting to technicalities or by assuming doubts and given benefit thereof where none exists. A doubt, as understood in criminal jurisprudence, has to be a reasonable doubt and not an excuse for a finding in favour of acquittal. An unmerited acquittal encourages wolves in the society being on the prowl for easy prey, more so when the victims of crime are helpless females. It is the spurt in the number of unmerited acquittals recorded by criminal courts which gives rise to the demand for death sentence to the rapists. The courts have to display a greater sense of responsibility and to be more sensitive while dealing with charges of sexual assault on women.

Bharwada Bhoginbhai Hirjibhai v. State of Gujarat5

The Supreme Court observed that refusal to act on the testimony of a victim of sexual assault in the absence of corroboration as a rule, is adding insult to injury. The Court deprecated viewing evidence of such victim with the aid of spectacles fitted with lenses tinted with doubt, disbelief or suspicion.

State Of M.P vs Dayal Sahu6

In this case, the Supreme Court mentioned a number of cases and held that once the statement of prosecutrix inspires confidence and accepted by the courts as such, conviction can be based only on the solitary evidence of the prosecutrix and no corroboration would be required unless there are compelling reasons which necessitate the courts for corroboration of her statement. Corroboration of testimony of the prosecutrix as a condition for judicial reliance is not a requirement of law but a guidance of prudence under the given facts and circumstances. It is also noticed that minor contradictions or insignificant discrepancies should not be a ground for throwing out an otherwise reliable prosecution case. Non-examination of doctor and non-production of doctor’s report would not cause fatal to the prosecution case, if the statements of the prosecutrix and other prosecution witnesses inspire confidence. It is also noticed that the Court while acquitting the accused on benefit of doubt should be cautious to see that the doubt should be a reasonable doubt and it should not reverse the findings of the guilt on the basis of irrelevant circumstances or mere technicalities.

  1. (1996) 2 SCC 384.
  2. (1983) 4 SCC 10.
  3. (1998) 8 SCC 635.
  4. (2000) 5 SCC 30.
  5. (1983) 3 SCC 217.
  6. (2005) 8 SCC 122.

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