She was only 13 in 2006 when she was raped. Taking the witness box, she had also identified her tormentor in a courtroom amid gazes fixed at her. However, it was not good enough for the trial judge, who acquitted the man on a technical ground that no identification parade was conducted and mere identifying the accused in the courtroom was not sufficient.
The Chhattisgarh High Court also agreed with the trial judge. Resolute, the girl filed a petition in the Supreme Court through her parents even as the police did not choose to appeal.
Nine years into their struggle, it all changed on Friday.
In a succour to the girl, the top court set aside the acquittal of the man and sentenced him to seven years in jail. Ordering immediate arrest of convict Sunil Kumar, a bench of Justices P C Ghose and Uday U Lalit criticised the lower courts for resorting to technical reasons to acquit the accused.
“It has consistently been held by this court that what is substantive evidence is the identification of an accused in court by a witness and that the prior identification in a test identification parade is used only to corroborate the identification in court. Holding of test identification parade is not the rule of law but rule of prudence,” said the bench.
The court said that once the victim had identified the accused in the court, the man could not have been acquitted on the ground that no test identification parade was conducted. It stated: “By very nature of the offence, the close proximity with the offender would have certainly afforded sufficient time to imprint upon her mind the identity of the offender.”
The court also said it was a failure on the part of the investigating officer, and that the victim could not be blamed for it.
It said the victim was a “trustworthy and reliable” witness and had been consistent in her version of the incident, proving it beyond reasonable doubt that she was raped by the convict.
The bench took on record other medical and circumstantial evidence pointing towards the guilt of the accused and added: “In the circumstances there was nothing wrong or exceptional in identification by her of the accused in court. We find her testimony completely trustworthy and reliable. Consequently, we hold that the case against accused stands proved.”