In an extraordinary judgement, the Supreme Court has said that a man accused of rape can be convicted solely on the basis of the victim’s testimony even without any evidence to corroborate the allegations.
A bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and P Sathasivam went to the extent of saying that a victim’s testimony “does not require corroboration from any other evidence including the evidence of a doctor.” However, it said that the victim’s statement should be “convincing”.
“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),” said the bench.
Citing the Indian woman’s tendency to conceal such offence because it involves her and her family’s prestige, the bench added: “In the Indian 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.”
According to the judges, it’s a rarity that a victim and her family members gather the courage to lodge a rape case. They further said if the totality of the circumstances, appearing on record of the case, discloses the victim did not have a strong motive to falsely implicate a person, the court should not hesitate to accept her version without any evidence.
Terming the use of corroborative evidence as a fossil formula, the bench held that judicial response to human rights couldn’t be blunted by legal jugglery. The bench was of the opinion that crimes of violence upon women need to be severely dealt with.
“Of late, crime 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 attitude of 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 added.