A five-year delay in filing the FIR and discrepancies noted in witness testimonies gave the benefit of doubt to a man charged with rape. This decision was taken by the Sikkim High Court in the case of Makraj Limboo vs. State of Sikkim [Cr.A.No. 17 of 2019] led by the single bench of Hon’ble Justice Bhaskar Raj Pradhan.
In the above cited case, Victim had lodged a FIR in 2018 alleging that she was being raped twice by the appellant in 2013, in result of which she got pregnant and had to abort her child. She further alleged that appellant had made false promises of marrying her post- abortion but brutally raped her again after the miscarriage/abortion. As a result, Fast-track court of Sikkim had convicted the appellant and sentenced him for Rigorous imprisonment of 7 years and fine U/s 376(1) of Indian Penal Code. But senior counsel of the appellant argued that victim filed the complaint because appellant didn’t marry her and not because she was raped. Delay of 5 years in filing the FIR couldn’t be explained properly by the victim. The Court was also apprised that the victim was diagnosed with acute and transient psychotic disorder, schizophrenia like with associated stress, following the termination of the pregnancy.
When the verdict of the trial court was being challenged, High Court stated that there are chances that the evidence of the rape must have lost in the span of 5 years. High court stated that “Rape is a violent offence. Penetration is a sine qua non. Due to the inordinate delay, medical evidence like injuries would have healed and material evidence would be lost”.
While giving the judgment, HC cited the reasons that although the evidence lead to grave suspicion that appellant must have raped the victim but it wouldn’t be judicially prudent to convict the appellant on suspicion alone. And in fact, none of what the victim had said was corroborated even by her family members. HC court stated that there was enough evidence to give rise to a grave suspicion that the man had raped the victim, but it was not enough to prudentially convict him, as the victim’s statement was not sufficiently corroborated.
HC said “The victim’s version of rape is not corroborated, so is her version of pregnancy and abortion and in some cases, the sole testimony of a rape victim can be relied upon, if it is safe, reliable and worthy of acceptance to convict the accused”. However, it was emphasized that the burden would still remain to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt. HC later added that “The possibility of a relationship gone sour cannot be ruled out”.
And therefore, the accused was being acquitted from the charges of rape by extending him the “Benefit of doubt”.