In Re: Boya Chinnappa v. Unknown

In the absence of any other witnesses and evidence in rape cases, the testimony of prosecutrix must be used to base the judgement. The court further held that the case of an accomplice, therefore, materially differs from that of a prosecutrix for rape and the evidence of both cannot be placed on the same footing.
CITATIONAIR 1951 Mad 760
COURTHigh Court of Madras
JUDGES/CORAMJustice Somasundaram
DATE OF JUDGEMENT14.11.1950

Introduction

In this peculiar case, the accused was found guilty of rape by the lower court even though there was no evidence against him. The main question of law was whether the accused could be convicted based solely on the victim’s testimonies.

FACTS

The facts of the case are as follows: A girl of about 10 years was living with her mother in the village of Garladinne. According to the evidence, the girl (victim) left her village on 16.07.1949 at about 3PM for Jambuladinne, a mile away from Garladinne to fetch from her uncle’s house, some milk. The milk was not available and her uncle promised that he would send it the next morning and so she returned. While she was coming back to her village, she met the accused. He was said to have been in a tipsy condition with red eyes. After making enquiries as to where the girl was going, he caught her arm and dragged her into a pit laid her on her back and sat down in front of her and placed her legs on his thighs. The girl started weeping & shouting. The accused then gagged her mouth with her own cloth and she lost consciousness. When she regained consciousness she found the accused tying her petticoat to her after washing it in water in a ditch nearby. She found blood on her petticoat and her vagina bleeding. The accused asked her not to tell anyone of what happened otherwise he would kill her.

The girl went home and informed her mother of what the accused did upon which they went to the house of the accused that was already known to the mother but did not find him there. Her mother went to the place where he was alleged to be and questioned him, he challenged her to do what she liked. The mother and victim then went to Jambuladinne for the purpose of complainig to the village Magistrate but he was not in the village.

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The duo then went to Anantpur to obtain a medical certificate. It is alleged that the doctor who examined the girl refused to give a certificate unless a fee was paid and as they were not in a position to pay, they came back without a certificate. After their return, they again went to the village Magistrate and made a report orally which he reduced to writing. On receipt of the report, the police started the investigation and the accused was arrested. During medical investigation, no traces of sperms could be found which led to the present issue.

Issues

The main issue in the case was: Whether or not the appellant could be convicted of the offence of rape based on the victim’s story only.

Summary of court decision and judgment

The Sessions Judge, Anantpur convicted the accused of the offence of rape and sentenced him to 7 years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 600/-. The accused appealed against his sentence before the High Court of Madras which convicted the appellant.

Contentions of the Appellant

The counsel for the appellant made the following contentions:

  1. The case had been falsely foisted on the accused at the instance of one Kamma Hanumappa because of the ill feeling between the said Hanumappa and his brother on the one side and the accused on the other. Advantage was taken of the statement made by girl and mother that they met Hanumappa just at the time when girl and her mother were proceeding to Anantapur for obtaining a medical certificate. Hanumappa instigated the girl and her mother to implicate the appellant.
  2. The evidence of the girl should not be acted upon unless it is corroborated by independent testimony connecting the accused with the crime.

Analysis

There is no decision or any authority of a binding nature in support of the view that the evidence of a prosecutrix in a rape case is on the same footing as that of an accomplice. An accomplice is a person who voluntarily participates in the commission of the crime along with others. In fact, he is as much an offender as the accused in the dock except that he is taken as a witness against the others. In the case of a prosecutrix for rape she is a victim of the offence and not an offender. If she is a consenting party it ceases to be an offence except in the case of those who are below a certain age and in such cases, the falsity is not as common as in the other cases. The case of an accomplice, therefore, materially differs from that of a prosecutrix for rape and the evidence of both cannot be placed on the same footing.

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Furthermore, Section 114(b), Evidence Act, says that “an accomplice is unworthy of credit unless he is corroborated in material particular”. There is no such provision for a prosecutrix in a rape case. This shows that neither law nor prudence requires such corroboration. Each case depends on its facts and on the credibility or otherwise of the prosecutrix. If she is proved to be a credible and a satisfactory witness, no corroboration in my opinion is necessary.

There is no doubt that in sexual offences utmost caution & scrutiny of the evidence of the prosecutrix are necessary before it is acted upon. Yet in the present case, there was no reason to disbelieve the victim’s story that it was the appellant who committed the outrage on her. I agree with the learned Sessions Judge in the appreciation of her evidence and he appropriately held the accused guilty of the offence of rape.

Conclusion

Thus, the decision of holding the accused guilty of the crime of rape by both Courts was appropriate. In such rape cases where no other evidence can be found which points towards the guilt of the accused, the story and evidence of the victim himself/herself must be examined and taken to be true to reach the judgment.