Phool Singh V. The State Of Madhya Pradesh
The appellant – accused, Phool Singh, filed the present Criminal Appeal contesting the High Court’s dismissal of his appeal from the trial court’s judgement and order of conviction and sentence. In a nutshell on August 9, 1999, the accused jumped the wall of the female victim’s house and then entered her chamber, where she was sleeping alone since her husband had gone to another village, and committed rape by pressing her mouth shut. He then escaped by jumping the wall. However, due to the bulb light in the room, the prosecutrix was able to identify the accused’s face. She then informed her sister-in-law about the incident however she was beaten up by her. She then informed her uncle and other family members about the incident, who took her back to parental home. Following the incident, the prosecutrix underwent a medical examination, and on August 12, 1999, subsequently a FIR was filed against the accused-appellant for the offence as per Section 376 of the IPC, and an investigation was conducted.
- Can the accused be convicted for rape by the Court relying solely on the female victim’s testimony if the Court has reason to believe that the testimony is reliable and trustworthy?
- If so, would the accused’s conviction and sentence imposed by the Court of Sessions under Section 376 be sustained in this case?
RULE OF LAW
- The punishment for rape is stipulated in Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘IPC’). Prior to the Criminal Amendment Act of 2013, a person who commits rape was punished with rigorous confinement for a period which shall not be less than seven years, and it can be extended to life imprisonment, additionally with a fine.
- According to Section 376(1), a person who commits Rape, with the exception of those listed in Section 376(2), must be punished with rigorous confinement for a period of which shall not be less than ten years, and can be extended to life imprisonment, along with a fine.
- Any person stipulated in Section 376(2) of the IPC must be punished with the rigorous confinement for a period which shall not be less than ten years and can be extended to life imprisonment for the remaining period of the convict’s lifetime, along with a fine.
- A person who commits rape on a woman under the age of sixteen years shall be punished with rigorous confinement for a period which shall not be less than twenty years and can be extended to life imprisonment, for the period of the convict’s lifetime, along with a fine under Section 376(3) of the IPC.
- During the trial, the accused pled not guilty before the Court of Sessions. The prosecution questioned six witnesses, including the victim- PW3, the doctor who examined the prosecutrix, and the Investigating Officer- PW6. One of these six witnesses, Rajaram, was declared a hostile witness and testified against the prosecution’s case. Following that, the accused filed an alibi plea, claiming that he was in Indore at the time of the alleged rape. However, the Trial Court rejected his alibi plea. The accused was convicted for rape under Section 376 of the IPC in the verdict and order issued on July 31, 2000.
- The High Court dismissed the appellant- accused’s appeal and affirmed the judgement of the Court of Sessions and decree against the appellant- accused. As a result, the appellant-accused filed this appeal.
- It is the appellant-accused’s contention that the physical intercourse, even if presumed to be real, was voluntary and not rape because no external or internal injuries were identified on the prosecutrix’s body during the medical examination. Furthermore, the appellant-accused contended that the case for victim’s counsel is based solely on the prosecution’s testimony and that no independent witnesses have been examined to support the prosecutrix.
- On the other hand, the Learned Advocate General argued on behalf of the respondent-state that in circumstances when the prosecutrix is determined to be reliable and trustworthy, the accused can be convicted for rape under Section 376 of the IPC based on the victim’s testimony. The judgements of the following instances were cited by the Learned Advocate General –
- Ganesan v. State
- Santosh Prasad v. State of Bihar
- State of H.P. v. Manga Singh
- State (NCT of Delhi) v. Pankaj Chaudhary
- In the case of State (NCT of Delhi) v. Pankaj Chaudhary, the Supreme Court stated that a conviction can be upheld on the sole testimony of the prosecutrix “if it inspires confidence and there is no rule of law or practice that the evidence of the prosecutrix cannot be relied on without corroboration”. The Learned counsel further stated that the accused’s plea of alibi contradicts the admission of consenting physical intercourse.
- Following the arguments, the Supreme Court ruled that the victim’s confession had been totally supported, even after cross-examination, and that there is no cause to dispute the victim’s sincerity and trustworthiness. Relying on the case of Ganesan v. State, the court stated that the credibility of the female victim’s testimony to be unblemished and of sterling quality. In response to the accused-appellant’s request for a reduction in punishment, the Court determined that the minimum penalty under Section 376 of the IPC is seven years, although it can be less than seven years in exceptional circumstances.
Observing the victim’s injury and trauma in the present case, the Supreme Court stated, “the victim was a relative. Nobody in the married household supported her, and she suffered as a result. She was forced to go to her parents’ place, where she was able to file the FIR. The accused has made a false case/plea of alibi, which has been disregarded by the lower courts”.
In the end, the Supreme Court ruled that the accused’s conviction based solely on the female victim’s testimony can be upheld in the absence of additional evidence. The lower courts will not accept the accused’s forged defence plea. Along with it, the appellant-accused’s request to lessen his conviction and sentence of seven years in rigorous prison to seven years in simple prison is denied by the Court. Finally, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and affirmed the appellant’s punishment under Section 376 of the IPC imposed by the Court of Sessions.
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