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Monday, Dec 05, 2022

Punjab & Haryana HC: Nobody can be held guilty just because there is a statement of prosecutrix

The division bench of Justice G S Sandhawalia and Justice Jagmohan Bansal dismissed the woman’s appeal against the trial court order and upheld the order of acquittal.

Punjab and Haryana High Court. (File)

Stating that “nobody in the civilised society can be implicated or held guilty just because there is a statement of prosecutrix (victim)”, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has dismissed the plea of a woman who sought to set aside an order of a trial court which acquitted her former fiance of charges of raping and sexually assaulting her.

The division bench of Justice G S Sandhawalia and Justice Jagmohan Bansal dismissed the woman’s appeal against the trial court order and upheld the order of acquittal. In 2017, the accused (respondent) with his family members came to the woman’s house and a ring ceremony was performed. After a month, the respondent called her (appellant) to meet him at a place in Rewari. After seeking her parents’ permission, she went to meet him at a bus stand in the area.

The man took her to a hotel on his two-wheeler and they spent half an hour in the hotel’s restaurant. The respondent then tried to get a room in the hotel, but the staff refused to give him room. The man then took her to another place, which was near a school, where he made advances at her. But when she denied to establish physical relation with him till the marriage, the man got offended and threatened not only to kill her but also not to marry her. He then left the place in a huff, according to the woman. The woman then got an FIR registered under Sections 376 and 354 of Indian Penal Code after a few days, as she told about the incident to her mother. The incident happened in a public place and the accused, serving in the Indian Army, was arrested for the offence. However, the trial court of Rewari acquitted him (respondent) of the charges. Aggrieved with the acquittal order, the woman filed an appeal in the high court.

Before the HC, the counsel for the woman submitted that the statement of the prosecutrix was sufficient to hold the respondent guilty. There are categoric allegations against the respondent. The owner of the hotel has deposed that the appellant and the respondent came to his hotel on August 9, 2017. Thus, their meeting stands proved, the counsel submitted.

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After hearing the arguments and perusing the evidence recorded by the trial court, the high court held, “Though it is settled proposition of law that statement of prosecutrix must be given pre-dominant consideration, yet nobody in the civilised society can be implicated or held guilty just because there is a statement of prosecutrix. The statement of prosecutrix cannot be treated as gospel truth and the court has to see that she is a witness of sterling quality. If the statement of prosecutrix is held to be gospel truth and courts are bound to hold someone guilty just because there is allegation by prosecutrix, it would be travesty of justice and there would be no need to conduct trial. The statement recorded by Magistrate under Section 164 or police authorities under Section 161 of CrPC would be sufficient to put a person behind bars and hold him guilty.” On the allegations that the incident took place at a public place, the bench said, “The place of incident is a public place and it is surrounded by hospital, police station and busy road. It is hard to believe that a person who is specially working in Indian Army would commit alleged act at a public place and with a girl to whom he is engaged and has met for the first time.”

On the statement of the hotelier, who before the investigating officer accepted that he did not see the man, the HC said, “It is important to notice that as per the appellant, the respondent tried to take room but hotel staff refused to let out, whereas there is no such averment in the deposition of the hotelier. There is nothing on record to indicate that why hotel staff refused to give room. There is clear contradiction between statement of appellant and hotelier and statement of hotelier seems to be unbelievable.”

Stating that the learned trial court had passed a detailed, reasoned and speaking order, the high court upheld the acquittal order saying that “we find no infirmity in the said judgment”.

First published on: 06-10-2022 at 07:31:30 am
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