Taking a grim view of the increasing rape cases in the country, the Supreme Court has ruled that testimony of the victim, if convincing, is sufficient to convict an accused even if there is no medical evidence to support the charge.
"In a given case even if the doctor who examines a victim does not find any sign of rape, it is no ground to disbelieve the sole testimony of the prosecutrix (rape victim)," a bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and P Sathasivam observed in a judgment.
The apex court reasoned that credible testimony of the victim is sufficient for the courts as, in normal course, a victim of sexual assault does not like to disclose such offence even before her family members, much less before public or before the police.
"Indian women has a tendency to conceal such offence because it involves her prestige as well as prestige of her family. Only in few cases, the victim or her family members have the courage to go to a police station and lodge a case," the bench said.
According to the court, if the totality of the circumstances appearing on the record of the case discloses that the victim does not have a strong motive to falsely involve the person charged, the court should ordinarily have no hesitation in accepting her evidence.
"An accused cannot cling on to a fossil formula and insist on corroborative evidence," the bench observed while dismissing the appeal filed by Motilal Gadariya.
The victim, a housewife, was raped by the accused Motilal Gadariya on January 17, 2002, at Bhusaur village in Madhya Pradesh's [ Images ] Chhatharpur district while her husband was away.
"Of late, crimes against women in general and rape in particular is on the increase. It is an irony that while we are celebrating women's rights in all spheres, we show little or no concern for her honour. It is a sad reflection on the the indifference of the society towards the violation of human dignity of the victims of sex crimes. We must remember that a rapist not only violates the victim's privacy and personal integrity, but inevitably causes serious psychological as well as physical harm in the process," the bench said.
The apex court said rape is not merely a physical assault -- it often destroys the whole personality of the victim.
"A murderer destroys the physical body of his victim, a rapist degrades the very soul of the helpless female. The court, therefore, shoulders a great responsibility while trying an accused on charges of rape. They must deal with such cases with utmost sensitivity," Justice Pasayat, writing the judgment, observed.
The bench said courts should examine the broader probabilities of a case and not get swayed by minor contradictions or insignificant discrepancies in the statement of the prosecutrix, which are not of a fatal nature, to throw out an otherwise reliable prosecution case.
"In the India [ Images ]n setting refusal to act on the testimony of the victim of sexual assault in the absence of corroboration as a rule, is adding insult to injury. A girl or a woman in the tradition-bound non-permissive society of India would be extremely reluctant even to admit that any incident, which is likely to reflect on her chastity, had ever occurred," the bench said.
The bench said the victim would be conscious of the danger of being ostracised by society and when in the face of these factors the crime is brought to light, there is inbuilt assurance that the charge is genuine rather than fabricated.