State of Punjab vs Gurmit Singh 

Citations: 1996 AIR 1393, 1996 SCC (2) 384 

Bench: Anand, A.S. (J) 

FACTS OF THE CASE: 

The prosecutrix was a young girl below the age of 16 yrs. who was studying in the 10th class? On  30th March 1984, while she was going to her maternal uncle, a car was driven by a Sikh youth, 25 years of age. 

This car had all the accused -Gurmit Singh, Jagjit Singh Bawa, and Ranjit Singh. The car stopped near the prosecutrix. Then the accused Ranjit Singh came out and caught hold of the prosecutrix and pushed her inside the car. Another accused Jagjit Singh tied her mouth with a cloth. Further Gurmit Singh threatened the prosecutrix that he will kill her and drove the car near the tube well owned by Ranjit Singh. Then the driver left them and forced the prosecutrix to consume liquor. 

After she consumed liquor, Gurmit Singh stripped her. Then she was made to lie on a cot in the kotha while his companions guarded the kotha against othe the utside. Then raped her again and threatened to kill her.

When her father returned in the evening, she narrated the entire incident to him. Then father contacted the Sarpanch of the village. A panchayat was  later convened where it was tried to affect a compromise between the parties 

No relief was received and the prosecutrix with her father decided to file a complaint at the nearby police station. Later, she was taken for a medical examination and was examined by Dr. Sukhwinder Kaur. During the examination, she found that the hymen of the prosecutrix was lacerated with fine radiate tears. It was swollen and became painful for the victim. As per her the intercourse with the prosecutrix could be one of the reasons for the laceration. The samples of salwar of the prosecutrix, vaginal smears, and one vial containing pubic hair of the prosecutrix were sent for clinical examination. 

ISSUES BEFORE THE COURT: 

1)Whether the prosecution’s story stands fortified by any cogent or reliable evidence or not 

2) Is there any need for corroborating evidence to be brought in court as per The Evidence  Act 1872?

JUDGEMENT: 

DECISION OF TRIAL COURT 

The trial court passed an erroneous decision without considering the facts and circumstances of the case in favor of the accused and acquitted the accused. 

DECISION OF HIGH COURT 

After considering the facts and circumstances of the case pleaded by both the parties in the court of law, the Hon’ble High Court ordered the conviction and passed a sentence against the accused. 

DECISION OF SUPREME COURT 

The judge opined that as per the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 corroborative evidence is not an essential component of each case of rape.  

A prosecutrix of a sexual offense cannot be put at par with an accomplice. She should remain a victim of the crime. The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 does not state that a victim’s evidence cannot be accepted unless it is corroborated with material particulars. Section 118  the prosecutrix is a competent witness. Thus, her evidence must have some credibility. But some extra care and caution must be taken while taking her evidence. 

Rape cases should be tried by lady judges as much as possible so that the victim is granted ease. This will also enable courts to opine and effectively discharge their duties. The bench further stated that the courts in India must be conscious of the fact that if it chooses to not rely on the testimony of the prosecutrix they can look for other evidence as well. The kind of evidence considered by courts necessary facts and circumstances. 

The bench further advised the trial courts to hold the trial of rape cases in the camera, rather than in the open court as stated under Section 327(2) CRPC. Rape cases are sensitive so courts should avoid disclosing the real identity of the victim to save her from embarrassment. 

The Supreme Court said that after perusing the relevant material evidence available to the court, the court found that the Trail Court and High Court have committed an error in not convicting the accused under Section 375, IPC, 1860 and ordered the conviction of the accused.

LEGAL PRINCIPLE INVOLVED: 

Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code 

Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code defines rape as “sexual intercourse with a woman  against her will, without her consent, by coercion, misrepresentation or fraud or at a time  when she has been intoxicated or duped or is of unsound mental health and in any case if she  is under 18 years of age.”  

It is rape if it falls under the following categories: 

1. Against her will. 

2. Without her consent. 

3. With her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her or any person in whom she is interested in fear of death or of hurt. 

4. With her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married. 

5. With her consent, when, at the time of giving such consent, because of unsoundness of mind or intoxication or the administration by him personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome substance, she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gives consent. 

6. With or without her consent, when she is under sixteen years of age. Explanation:  Penetration is sufficient to constitute the sexual intercourse necessary for the offense of rape. 

Consent under Section 375 

Consent is defined as clear, voluntary communication that the woman gives for a certain sexual act. Marital rape is an exception to giving consent as it is not a crime under the Indian  Penal Code. It is as long as the woman is above 18 years of age. 

Exceptions to Section 375 

Sexual intercourse by a man with his wife who is above the age of 18, is not sexual assault. 

Amendment to Section 375 of IPC 

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, or the Nirbhaya Act, was passed in Parliament to amend Section 375. To remove ambiguity in the earlier law and provide for strict punishment in cases of rarest cases of sexual violence, the legislation was expanded to define acts like penetration of the penis into the vagina, urethra, anus or mouth, or any object or any part of the body to any extent into the aforesaid woman body parts (or making another person do so), as constituting an offense of sexual assault. Applying mouth or touching private parts were also classified as offenses of sexual assault.

Punishment 

Except in certain aggravated situations, the punishment will be imprisonment of not less than seven years. But, it may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to a fine. In aggravated situations, punishment will be rigorous imprisonment for a term that shall not be less than 10 years. It may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to a fine.

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