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Conviction can based on sole testimony of victim, however, she must be reliable and trustworthy: SC

Ganesan v. The State representated by its Inspector of Police,

Criminal Appeal No. 680 of 2020 (Arising from S.L.P.(Criminal) No.4976/2020),

14 October, 2020.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court comprising of Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice M.R.Shah and Justice R.Subhash Reddy observed that the solitary evidence of the prosecutrix is sufficient, provided the same inspires confidence and appears to be absolutely trustworthy, unblemished and should be of sterling quality.

That the appellant herein – original accused was tried by the learned Fast Track Mahila Court, Dharmapuri for the offences punishable under Section 7 read with Section 8 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. Relying upon the deposition of PW3 – victim, who at the relevant time was studying in 5th standard and aged 13 years, the trial Court convicted the accused for the offence under Section 7 of the POCSO Act and sentenced him to undergo three years rigorous imprisonment. The learned trial Court also passed an order to pay rupees one lakh to the victim girl, by way of compensation, under Rule 7(2) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Rules, 2012.

The appellant then approached the Hon’ble High Court. On 24.04.2019 the appellants counsel did not show up. Subsequently, the court directed the legal aid authority to appoint counsel for the appellant. The counsel on 19.04.2019, contended that the appellant was very poor and was unable to pay the compensation of Rs.1 Lakh. There was no contention raised regarding the sentence for rigorous imprisonment. The court agreed with the contention and directed that the same will be paid by the government, which can be recovered by the government subsequently, if it finds that the appellant has means to pay the compensation.

It is against this order; the appellant has approached the Supreme Court.

The petitioners contended that, (i) the time given by the court to the Legal Aid counsel was only 4 days and he was unable to make proper representation within the same and that affects his right to due process of law. (ii) the mother of the victim, PW2 turned hostile and therefore the learned trial Court has committed a grave error in convicting the accused, relying upon the sole testimony of PW3 – victim. It is further contended that in fact the learned trial Court accepted that there are lapses on the part of the prosecution and therefore the benefit of doubt ought to have been given to the accused.

Counsel for the state contended that (i) merely because the appeal was disposed of within four days from the date of providing legal assistance to the accused, it cannot be presumed that no fair and sufficient opportunity was given to the accused to defend the case. (ii) As per the settled proposition of law, there can be a conviction on the sole testimony of the victim. Reliance was placed upon the decision of this Court in the case of Vijay alias Chinee v. State of Madhya Pradesh[(2010) 8 SCC 191], He further submitted that in the present case merely because PW2mother of the victim has turned hostile, the testimony of the PW3, which otherwise is reliable and trustworthy, cannot be doubted.

The Court, while answering the first contention of the petitioners explained its judgment in Anokhilal v. State of Madhya Pradesh[AIR 2020 SC 232] and brought out how the present case does not come under the purview of the Court’s holding in Anokhilal(Supra), observed the following:

However, it is required to be noted that as such nothing in on record that the legal aid counsel was not having any papers. There cannot be any dispute with respect to proposition of law laid down by this Court in the case of Anokhilal (supra). However, in the facts and circumstances of the case and considering the fact that the High Court has given partial relief to the accused and considering the fact that out of the sentence of three years R.I., the appellant has already undergone two years and three months (approximately), instead of remanding the matter to the High Court for a fresh decision, we have called upon to the learned counsel for the respective parties to submit the case on merits, and the learned counsel on behalf of the respective parties have made their submissions on merits, noted hereinabove.

To answer the second contention the Court referred to its judgment in Vijay alias Chinee v. State of Madhya Pradesh[(2010) 8 SCC 191] and observed the following:

In the case of Krishan Kumar Malik v. State of Haryana[(2011) 7 SCC 130], it is observed and held by this Court that to hold an accused guilty for commission of an offence of rape, the solitary evidence of the prosecutrix is sufficient, provided the same inspires confidence and appears to be absolutely trustworthy, unblemished and should be of sterling quality.(Para 9.2)

The court observed the term “Sterling Witness” by referring to its judgment in Rai Sandeep alias Deepu v. State (NCT of Delhi)[(2012) 8 SCC 21] in the following words:

In our considered opinion, the “sterling witness” should be of a very high quality and calibre whose version should, therefore, be unassailable. The court considering the version of such witness should be in a position to accept it for its face value without any hesitation. To test the quality of such a witness, the status of the witness would be immaterial and what would be relevant is the truthfulness of the statement made by such a witness. What would be more relevant would be the consistency of the statement right from the starting point till the end, namely, at the time when the witness makes the initial statement and ultimately before the court………………….To be more precise, the version of the said witness on the core spectrum of the crime should remain intact while all other attendant materials, namely, oral, documentary and material objects should match the said version in material particulars in order to enable the court trying the offence to rely on the core version to sieve the other supporting materials for holding the offender guilty of the charge alleged.”(Para 22 of Rai Sandeep alias Deepu v. State (NCT of Delhi))

In the above regard, the court held:

On evaluating the deposition of PW3 – victim on the touchstone of the law laid down by this Court in the aforesaid decisions, we are of the opinion that the sole testimony of the PW3 – victim is absolutely trustworthy and unblemished and her evidence is of sterling quality.

Subsequently, the appeal was dismissed.

View/Download Judgment:

CRIMINAL APPEAL No. 680 of 2020
Download PDF • 246KB

Kalidharun K M.



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