New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ruled that in rape cases there was no need for corroboration and conviction can be imposed on the sole statement of the victim as her testimony cannot be looked at with suspicion.

"It is a trite law that a woman, who is the victim of sexual assault, is not an accomplice to the crime but is a victim of another person's lust. The prosecutrix stands at a higher pedestal than an injured witness as she suffers from emotional injury.

"Therefore, her evidence need not be tested with the same amount of suspicion as that of an accomplice. The Indian Evidence Act nowhere says that her evidence cannot be accepted
unless it is corroborated in material particulars," the Apex Court said.

A bench of justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan passed the ruling while dismissing an appeal filed by Mohd Imran Khan and Jamal Ahmed challenging their conviction for rape of a minor girl about 22 years ago.

The defence had argued the victim's statement cannot be relied upon as she had eloped with the accused.

The Apex Court also chided the then Investigating Officer Puran Singh of the national capital's Vinay Nagar police station for attempting to favour the convicts by turning
hostile and claiming that the birth certificate record of the victim initially presented in the court was not valid.

"In respect of the date of birth, we are of the view that Puran Singh, IO, unfortunately made an attempt to help the accused/appellants, though in the examination-in-chief the witness has deposed that the birth certificate providing the date of birth as 2-9-1974 was genuine.

"Be that as it may, by now Puran Singh might have retired as the incident itself occurred 22 years ago. Therefore, we do not want to say anything further in respect of his conduct," Justice Chauhan writing the judgement said. In this case, the convicts took the minor girl from Delhi to Meerut on November 28, 1989, where they repeatedly raped her.

The Apex Court said that in rape cases the victim is undoubtedly a competent witness under Section 118 of the Evidence Act and her evidence must receive the same weight as it is attached to an injured in cases of physical violence.

"The same degree of care and caution much attach in the evaluation of her evidence as in the case of an injured complainant or witness no more.

"If the court keeps this in mind and feels satisfied that it can act on the evidence of the prosecutrix, there is no rule of law or practice incorporated in the Evidence Act similar to illustration (b) to Section 114 which requires it to look for corroboration," the bench said.

According to the Apex Court, if for some reason the court is hesitant to place implicit reliance on the testimony of the prosecutrix, "it may look for evidence which may lend
assurance to her testimony short of corroboration required in the case of an accomplice.

"If the totality of the circumstances appearing on the record of the case disclose that the prosecutrix does not have a strong motive to falsely involve the person charged, the
court should ordinarily have no hesitation in accepting her evidence," the bench said.

The bench said courts must be alive to their responsibility and be sensitive while dealing with cases involving sexual molestations.

"The rapist degrades the very soul of the helpless female and therefore, the testimony of the prosecutrix must be appreciated in the background of the entire case and in such
cases, non-examination even of other witnesses may not be a serious infirmity in the prosecution case, particularly where the witness has not seen the commission of offence," the Apex Court added.

(Agencies)