NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has held that in rape cases the testimony of the victim cannot be considered to be the gospel truth, though in normal circumstances her statement has to be relied upon.
A bench of justices H S Bedi and J M Panchal said while primacy has to be given to victim’s statement, there can be no presumption that she is telling the ultimate truth as the charge has to be proved “beyond reasonable doubt” as in any other criminal case.
“We are conscious of the fact that in a matter of rape, the statement of victim must be given primary consideration. But, at the same time, the broad principle that the prosecution has to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt applies equally to a case of rape and there can be no presumption that a prosecutrix would always tell the entire story truthfully,” the apex court said in an order.
The court passed the observation while acquitting one of the three accused Abbas Ahmad Chowdhary charged with raping a minor girl.
It was the case of the prosecution that on September 15, 1997, the accused-appellants Md. Mizazul Haq, Abbas Ahmad Choudhury and one Ranju Das (absconding) had raped the victim after forcibly taking her to a tea estate in Jalalpur.
The sessions court in Assam convicted two of the accused Choudhary and Haq for rape. The Guwhati High Court upheld the conviction following which the duo appealed before the apex court.
The apex court, however, gave benefit of doubt to Chowdhary as there were variations in the statements made by the victim.
“It must first be borne in mind that in her statement recorded on 17th September, 1997, the prosecutrix had not attributed any rape to Abbas Ahmad Choudhary. Likewise, she had stated that he was not one of those who kidnapped her and taken to Jalalpur Tea Estate and on the other hand she categorically stated that while she along with and Ranju Das were returning to the village that he had joined them somewhere along the way but had still not committed rape.
“It is true that in her statement in court she has attributed rape to Abbas Ahmad Choudhary as well, but in the light of the aforesaid contradictions some doubt is created with regard to his involvement. Some corroboration of rape could have been found if Abbas Ahmad Choudhary too had been apprehended and taken to the police station by P.W. 5 – Ranjit Dutta the Constable,” the apex court said.
The apex court pointed out that the victim’s original statement was corroborated by the investigating officer that only two of the appellants Ranju Das and Md Mizalul Haq along with the prosecutrix had been brought to the police station as Abbas Ahmad Choudhary had run away while en route to the police station.
“Resultantly, an inference can be rightly drawn that Abbas Ahmad Choudhary was perhaps not in the car when the complainant and two of the appellants had been apprehended by constable Ranjit Dutta. We are, therefore, of the opinion that the involvement of Abbas Ahmad Choudhary is doubtful,” the apex court said.
However, it upheld the conviction of Mizazul Haq and dismissed his appeal.