STATE OF PUNJAB vs GURMIT SINGH Case Summary (1996 SC)

STATE OF PUNJAB vs GURMIT SINGH Case Summary (1996 SC)

In State of Punjab vs Gurmit Singh case, the said appeal under Section 14 of the Terrorist Affected Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1984 is directed against the judgment and order of Additional Judge, Special Court, Ludhiana dated 01.06.1985 by which the respondents were acquitted of the charge of abduction and rape.

The Trial court not only erroneously disbelieved the prosecutrix but quietly uncharitably and unjustifiably even characterized her as a girl of loose morals or such type of girl. It is the erroneous inference drawn by the court baseless of any evidence which has shocked our judicial conscience.

BENCH: ANAND, A.S.(J)

RELEVANT PROVISIONS: Section 363, 366, 368, and 376 of Indian Penal Code

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BRIEF FACTS

  • That the prosecutrix was a young girl below 16 years of age, studying in the 10th class at the relevant time in Government High School, Pakhowal. The matriculation examinations were being conducted at the concerned time.
  • On 30th March 1984, after attending her Geography exam, the prosecutrix was on his way to her uncle’s house. Suddenly a blue ambassador car being driven by a Sikh youth, aged 20/25 years containing all the three accused, i.e. Gurmit Singh, Jagjit Singh and Ranjit Singh, stopped near her.
  • According to the prosecution’s story, Ranjit Singh came out of the car and caught hold of the prosecutrix from her and pushed her inside the car. Jagjit Singh allegedly put his private part to the mouth of the victim, while Gurmit Singh threatened her to death. All the three accused drove her to the tube well owned by Ranjit Singh and the driver of the car left the prosecutrix along with them and he himself went away with the car. It was at this place where each of the three accused committed sexual intercourse with the prosecutrix forcibly and against her will.
  • On the very next day at about 6.00 a.m, the same car arrived at the tube well and the three accused made her to sit in that car and left her near the Boys High School, near about the place from where she had been abducted. On the same day, the prosecutrix had to attend her examination.
  • After her examination, the prosecutrix narrated the entire incident to her mother, Smt. Gurdev Kaur. Further, when her father came to know of the story, he straightaway contacted the Sarpanch Joginder Singh of the village and later a panchayat was convened and the matter was brought to the notice of the Sarpanch of village Pakhowal as well.
  • Since no justice of relief was being provided by both the panchayats, an FIR was being lodged in the police station where the prosecutrix and her mother were taken to a primary health centre for the medical examination of the victim. As per the medical examination, it was found that the hymen of the prosecutrix was ruptured with fine radiate tears, swollen and painful. Her pubic hair was also found matted.
  • While investigating, the police took into possession a sealed parcel handed over by the lady doctor containing the salwar of the prosecutrix along with 5 slides of vaginal smears and one sealed vial containing pubic hair of the prosecutrix.
  • As pointed out by the prosecutrix, the investigating officer prepared a rough site plan of the Kotha and a search was made for the accused on 02.04.1984, but they were not found. On 03.04.1984, a raid was also being conducted at the houses of the accused in order to trace them but all at vain.
  • On 05.04.1984  the accused Jagjit Singh and Ranjit Singh were produced before the investigating officer and were further sent for medical examination where it was established that both the accused were fit to perform sexual intercourse.
  • On 09.04.1984, the third accused, i.e. Gurmit Singh, was arrested and on medical examination, he too was deemed fit to perform sexual intercourse. The sealed parcels containing the slides of vaginal smears, the public hair and the salwar of the prosecutrix, were sent to the chemical examiner and on examining, he further revealed that semen was found on the vaginal smears though no spermatozoa was found either on the public hair or the salwar of the prosecutrix.
  • Thus, on the completion of the investigation, the accused were challenged and charged for the offences under Section 363, 366, 368 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  • The Trial Court disbelieved the version of the prosecutrix and, finding no substance in her testimony, passed the judgment of acquittal of the accused, which is challenged before the concerned court through the said appeal.

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LEGAL ISSUES

  1. Whether the prosecution’s story stands fortified by any cogent or reliable evidence or not, and if there’s any need for validating evidence to be brought in court as per the Evidence Act of 1872?
  2. Whether the decision of the trial court acquitting the respondents were justiciable?

RATIO DECIDENDI

The Trial Court disbelieved the prosecution story based on the following grounds:

  • That the girl was so ignorant about the make etc.of the car that her entire story of being abducted in the car becomes doubtful as she failed to explain the difference between a Fiat car, Ambassador Car or a Master Car;
  • That the investigating officer had shown “pitiable negligence” by not tracing out the car and the driver;
  • That the prosecution did not raise any alarm while being abducted;
  • That the story of abduction has been false narrated in order to increase the gravity of the offence;
  • That no corroborative statement of the prosecutrix has been found on record;
  • That since there had been a delay in lodging the FIR, the chances of false implication of the accused could not be ruled out.
  • That no sufficient medical evidence was found in view of the intercourse with the prosecutrix and there could be some other reasons as well;
  • That no independent corroboration of her testimony was found, and that the accused had been implicated on account of enmity.

In view of the above-stated grounds, the findings of the trial court are not at all sound and rebel against realism, losing their sanctity and credibility. The court lost sight of the fact that the prosecutrix was a village girl studying in class X. Hence; it was totally immaterial and irrelevant to disbelieve her case on the ground that she was ignorant of the difference between a Fiat Car, an Ambassador Car or a Mater Car. And that she did not remember the color of the car was of no material effect on the reliability of her testimony.

It has been clearly asserted by the prosecutrix in her statement that while abducted; she has been threatened to be killed on raising her alarm and under such circumstances; the court failed in error for discrediting the testimony of the prosecutrix on that account.

Regarding the delay in lodging the FIR, the court overlooked the fact that in sexual offences delay in lodging the complaint can be because of many reasons particularly the reluctance of the prosecutrix or her family members to complain about the incident which concerns the reputation of the prosecutrix and the dignity of the entire family. It has also been stated in the case that as soon as the father of the prosecutrix came to know about the entire incident; he made a complaint to the Sarpanch of both the villages. It was only when no relief of justice was rendered, an FIR was being lodged.

The observations of the Trial Court that the prosecution’s story that she was left near the examination centre the next morning at 6 a.m. was “not believable” as the accused would be the last person to extend sympathy to the prosecutrix are not at all intelligible. The accused has intended, ignoring this fact in order to prevent himself from being detected.

Besides the above grounds, the Supreme court held that while seeking corroboration of her statement before relying upon the same, as a rule, in such cases amounted to adding insult to injury. It was rightly remarked that in order to satisfy its judicial conscience, the court may look for her some assurance of her statement as she being a witness to the case, but there is no such requirement of law to insist upon corroboration of her statement.

The question raised before the concerned court was-

“Why should the evidence of a girl or a woman who complains of rape or sexual molestation, be viewed with doubt, disbelief, or suspicion?”

In view of the above issue, it was stated that corroborative evidence is not an imperative component of judicial credence in every case of rape and is only used as a guidance paradigm and not as substantive law in judicial proceedings. It must not be overlooked that a woman or a girl subjected to sexual assault is not an accomplice to crime, but is a victim of another person’s lust, and it is improper and undesirable to test her evidence with a certain amount of suspicion.

However, the Supreme court, on analyzing the above-mentioned facts and circumstances, held that there is ample corroboration available on the record to lend further credence to the testimony of the prosecutrix –

  1. The presence of semen on the slides lent authentic corroboration to her testimony.
  2. That it was the prosecutrix who had led the investigating officer to the tube well of Ranjit Singh, where she had been raped, lent a built-in assurance that the charges levied by her were genuine rather than fabricated.
  3. There was no basis regarding the findings of the Trial court that the prosecutrix had spent the night in the company of “some persons” and had indulged in sexual intercourse with them of her own free will.
  4. No supporting documents were produced in order to support the contention of the accused of having any civil litigation between the parties concerned. Hence, there was no material record to prove the existence of such enmity.
  5. There was evidence on the record that the girl was below 16 years of age on the date of occurrence and was also supported by the birth certificate.

DECISION

Considering the aforesaid discussions, it was found that the prosecutrix has made a truthful statement, and the prosecution has established the case against the respondents beyond every reasonable doubt. The conclusions arrived at by the trial court were found not only unreasonable and erroneous but also perverse.

The Bench rightly summarized the position in the following words –

“A prosecutrix of a sex offence cannot be put on par with an accomplice. She is, in fact, a victim of the crime. The Evidence Act nowhere says that her evidence cannot be accepted unless it is corroborated in material details. She is undoubtedly a competent witness under Section 118 of Evidence Act and her evidence must receive the same weight as being attached to an injured in cases of physical violence. The same care and caution must attach in the evaluation of her evidence as with an injured complainant or witness and no more”.

The impugned judgment of the trial court was set aside and all the three accused were convicted for committing offences under Section 363, 366, 368, and 376 IPC. The Bench expresses strong disapproval of the approach of the trial court and its casting a stigma on the character of the prosecutrix. It was stated that the Courts are expected to use self-restraint while recording such findings which have larger repercussions so far as the future of the victim of the sex crime is concerned and even wider implications on the society- where the victim of the crime is discouraged-the criminal is encouraged and crime gets rewarded.

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Isha Sharma

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