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The Delhi High Court Upholds Victim’s Testimony Quoting it as “Ring of Truth” in Sexual Assault Case: Cited Reason as Lack of Evidence to Rebut the Statutory Presumptions

Case Title – Miss P & Ors. Vs. State of NCT Delhi & Anr.

Case Number – CRL. A. 459/2020

Dated on – 14th May, 2024

Quorum – Justice Suresh Kumar Kait and Justice Manoj Jain

FACTS OF THE CASE
In the case of Miss P & Ors. Vs. State of NCT Delhi & Anr., the Accused (the Respondent herein) and his wife (PW-3) worked as a security guard. They had a daughter (victim herein) and a son (PW-4). The victim reported in the police station concerning her father repeatedly assaulting her sexually for quite some time. The victim claimed that one day, when the accused was jobless, he did not allow her to go to school. Since her mother worked outside and her brother was away for school, during the noon hour, when she was alone at home with him. The accused made her sleep alongside him. The accused then touched her private parts and when she resisted, he rebuked her. Further, the accused sexually assaulted the victim and the victim divulged about the incident to PW-3. When PW-3 confronted the accused regarding the alleged incident, the accused scolded the PW-3 as well as the victim. The victim unveiled that she has been getting assaulted sexually for the last two years and the accused assaulted her lastly on the 4th of January, 2013. The victim was sent for medical examination and documents concerning her age was collected and the statements of the victim and PW-4 was recorder under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The Accused was, thus, arrested based on the FIR lodged by the victim, chargesheet was instituted and the accused was sent for trial. The accused was duly charged for the offences under Section 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, Section 506 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Section 323 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The accused claimed the trial pleading not guilty under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal procedure, 1973. The Learned Trial Court while acquitting the Accused, held that the story of the prosecution did not inspire confidence and was not credible.

ISSUES
The main issue of the case whirled around whether the delay in reporting the sexual assault to the authorities is considered fatal to the case of the prosecution, given the explanation of the threats by the Accused to the victim?

Whether the sole testimony of the victim, if found credible, cogent, and unambiguous, is sufficient to convict the Respondent without the need for additional corroboration?
Whether the testimonies of the Victim, PW-3 and PW-4 are consistent and corroborate each other sufficiently, despite any minor discrepancies or contradictions?
Whether minor discrepancies or contradictions identified by the Trial Court in the testimonies are material enough to render the case of the prosecution unbelievable?
Whether the accusations were fabricated due to the matrimonial discord, with the victim being tutored by her mother to falsely implicate the Respondent?
Whether the fact of the victim being a minor at the time of the alleged assault impacts the credibility and handling of her testimony?

LEGAL PROVISIONS
Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 prescribes the Recording of confessions and statements

Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 prescribes the Power to examine the accused
Section 315 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 prescribes that the Accused person to be competent witness
Section 5 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 prescribes the Meaning Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Offences
Section 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 prescribes the Punishment Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Offences
Section 29 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 prescribes the Presumption as to certain offences
Section 30 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 prescribes the Presumption of culpable mental state
Section 323 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 prescribes the Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt
Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 prescribes the Punishment for Rape
Section 506 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 prescribes the Punishment for criminal intimidation

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANTS
The Appellants, through their counsel, in the said case contented that Trial Court failed to appreciate the evidence properly and gave undue weight to trivial contradictions and discrepancies and that the testimonies of the victim, PW-3 and PW-4 corroborate each other without inherent discrepancies or contradictions which would arise suspicion.
Further it was contented that the Accused threatened to kill the victim in case of any disclosure of the matter of sexual assault done by the Accused on the Victim, causing the delay in institution of the FIR and that it is justified by the fear instilled in the victim by the Accused.
Moreover, it was contented that according to the legal precedents, conviction can be rested solely on the testimony of a sexual assault victim if it is credible, cogent and unambiguous and that the testimony of the victim is considered credible and does not require corroboration, specifically since the assault occurred within the four walls of the house.
At last, it was contented that there is no plausible reason for a school going girl to falsely accuse her father of such grave offence and that the minor conflicts between the parents of the victim are not sufficient reasons for the victim to fabricate such severe accusations.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENTS
The Respondents, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the Trial Court thoroughly analysed the evidences and rightfully concluded that there were significant contradictions, which undermine the case of the prosecution and that the case is fabricated due to the matrimonial discord, with the wife using the daughter to wrongfully implicate the Respondent.
Further it was contented that the delay in reporting was not explained adequately, raising doubts about the veracity of the accusations and that the testimonies of the victim, PW-3 and PW-4 are asserted to lack credibility due to unexplained material contradictions and inconsistencies.
Moreover, the respondent contented that the victim was tutored to make fake accusations as a tool in the marital discord between the Respondent and his wife.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGMENT
The court in the case of Miss P & Ors. Vs. State of NCT Delhi & Anr., the court noted that the Victim testified about the sexual assault incident by the accused detailing specific acts and threats used to silence her and that the victim provided a consistent account of these assaults continuing almost daily for two years. The court stated that the victim has been consistent across her initial statement to the police as well as the magistrate and the minor inconsistencies and discrepancies are considered trivial and do not undermine the overall credibility of her account. The court also noted that the testimonies provided by the PW-3 and the PW-4 corroborated the account of the victim especially regarding the incident on the night of 18th January, 2013 and the abusive behaviour of the accused. The court stated that the observation of the Trial Court was deemed inconsequential and did not undermine the substance of the accusation. The court also cited several precedents where the Supreme Court emphasized the reliability of the testimony of the victim in the cases concerning sexual assault and highlighted that minor contradictions should not discredit the account of the victim if it inherently seems truthful. The court stated that the burden of rebutting the presumptions in the POCSO Act lies on the accused which must be done beyond any reasonable doubt. The court reassessed the testimonies and found them credible and consistent despite the minor discrepancies and acknowledged the corroborative evidences such as the medical examination reports. The court further acknowledged that the delay in reporting the sexual assault is common due to the societal pressures and fear of stigmas. The court thus upheld the case of the prosecution stating that the testimony of the victim was credible and that the defense failed to furnish any substantial evidence to rebut the statutory presumptions.


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Judgement Reviewed by – Sruti Sikha Maharana
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