Holding that an alleged rape victim’s statement cannot always be taken as “gospel truth”, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday said an accused can be convicted solely on the basis of her deposition only if it “inspires confidence”.
“In cases where the prosecutrix (victim woman) keeps changing her stand, in the absence of corroboration, placing reliance solely upon her testimony would not be proper,” said a bench of justices VP Vaish and PK Bhasin.
The court made the observation while acquitting one Brijesh of rape charges. Brijesh was handed down life sentence by a lower court on September 3 , 2012 for allegedly raping his tenant’s wife.
The trial court had relied solely on the woman’s testimony to reach the verdict.
However, the high court sentenced Brijesh to one year for outraging her modesty relying on the woman’s initial statement.
On August 22, 2007, the woman had filed a complaint with the police that the man tried to outrage her modesty. She refused a medical examination. The next day, pushed by her husband, she accused Brijesh of rape.
The police defended the trial court judgment, saying conviction in rape cases can be based on the sole testimony of the rape survivor without any corroboration.
But the court said: “Rape is a sensitive issue that should be dealt with utmost caution and sensitivity. A conviction can be based on the sole testimony of the prosecutrix. However, this can be done only in the cases where her statement inspires confidence...the court has to give a benefit of doubt to accused if there is grave suspicion regarding the commission of offence.”
On the woman’s contention that she initially did not file a rape case due to threats from the suspect, the court said: “The victim has not produced any evidence to show that they took steps against the threat by the accused person or made any representation about the same to the higher authorities.”