Rajasthan High Court Verdict in 1991 Criminal Case: Conviction Changed from Attempt to Rape to Assault

Case title: Suwalal VS. The State Of Rajasthan  

Case no : S.B. Criminal Appeal No. 272/1991

Order on: 13/05/2024


Fact of the case:

The complainant (PW-3) lodged a report at the Police Station, Todaraisingh, District Tonk, alleging that his six-year-old granddaughter, referred to as “D,” was drinking water at a Pyau (Water Booth) near Dharamshala when the accused, Suwalal, forcefully took her into the Dharamshala around 8:00 PM with the intent to commit rape. Villagers intervened upon hearing the girl’s cries. Based on this report, Crime Report No.40/1991 was registered for the offence under Section 376/511 IPC. Following the investigation, a charge sheet was filed against the appellant for the aforementioned offence, and charges were framed by the Trial Court, to which the appellant pleaded not guilty. The prosecution presented 7 witnesses and 5 documents. The appellant’s statements were recorded under Section 313 Cr.P.C. On 03.07.1991, the Sessions Judge, Tonk, convicted Suwalal under Section 376/511 IPC and sentenced him to 3 years and 6 months of rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs.100, with an additional 3 months of simple imprisonment in default of payment. 

Issues Framed by the Court

  • Whether the appellant, Suwalal, committed the offence of attempt to rape under Section 376/511 IPC as per the allegations.
  • Whether the facts and evidence support the conviction under Section 376/511 IPC or if a different section of the IPC is more appropriate.

Legal provisions:

Section 376/511 IPC: Deals with the attempt to commit rape. Section 376 covers the punishment for rape, and Section 511 deals with the punishment for attempting to commit offences punishable with life imprisonment or other punishments.

Section 354 IPC: Apply to to assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty.

Contentions of Appellant:

The appellant’s counsel argued that the allegations made by the prosecutrix did not constitute an attempt to rape under Section 376/511 IPC. The main accusation was that the appellant undressed himself and the prosecutrix, which does not fulfill the legal criteria for an attempt to rape. The counsel highlighted that there was no medical evidence connecting the appellant to an attempt to rape the prosecutrix. The counsel contended that the Trial Court erred in its judgment by convicting the appellant under Section 376/511 IPC without sufficient evidence of an attempt to rape.

Contentions of Respondents:

The respondent ( Public Prosecutor ) argued that the prosecutrix’s statements clearly indicated that the appellant undressed both himself and the prosecutrix, which were specific actions pointing towards an attempt to rape. The counsel noted that the appellant did not cross-examine the prosecutrix (PW-2) to challenge her testimony, thereby suggesting that her statements should be considered credible and sufficient to establish an attempt to rape. The Public Prosecutor maintained that the evidence on record and the testimony of the prosecutrix justified the conviction under Section 376/511 IPC.

Court analysis& Judgement:

In this case, The court examined the FIR and statements of witnesses, particularly focusing on the prosecutrix (PW-2) and her grandfather (PW-3). The prosecutrix’s account that the appellant undressed her and himself was scrutinized. However, it was found that these actions did not constitute an attempt to rape as defined under Section 376/511 IPC. The court clarified that for an act to be considered an attempt to rape under Section 376/511 IPC, it must go beyond mere preparation and constitute a direct attempt to commit rape. The court determined that the actions of the appellant, forcefully taking the prosecutrix into the Dharamshala and undressing, amounted to assault with intent to outrage modesty under Section 354 IPC. The court emphasized that the appellant’s actions had the intention or knowledge that the modesty of the prosecutrix was likely to be outraged, fitting the criteria for Section 354 IPC. The court considered the appellant’s age at the time of the incident (below 25 years). The duration the appellant had already spent in jail was noted (approximately 2½ months). The court acknowledged the long duration since the incident (over 33 years), which had likely caused mental, physical, and economic strain on the appellant. Given the significant lapse of time, the court found it inappropriate to send the appellant back to jail.

Therefore, the  court decided  that the appellant’s conviction was altered from Section 376/511 IPC (attempt to rape) to Section 354 IPC (assault or criminal force with intent to outrage modesty). The findings of the learned Sessions Judge, Tonk, were modified accordingly. In accordance with Section 437-A Cr.P.C., the appellant was directed to furnish a personal bond of Rs.50,000/- and one surety of a similar amount within three months. This bond would ensure the appellant’s appearance before the Supreme Court if an appeal was filed against this judgment. The bonds would remain effective for six months. The trial court’s record was ordered to be sent back immediately.

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Judgement Reviewed By- Antara Ghosh

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