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Landmark Decisions: Om Prakash Vs Dil Bahar - 2006

IOm Prakash Vs Dil Bahar (2006)

What: A rape accused could now be convicted on the sole evidence of the victim, even if medical evidence did not prove rape.

Case Speak: The victim, six months pregnant, was in court because her husband was facing challan proceedings. The accused was a relative and had come to attend the same. Finding her in isolation outside the Zilla Parishad, the accused tried to rape her. However, she raised an alarm and the accused was assaulted by the locals and handed over to the police. Although no evidence of rape was found, the accused was given a seven-year sentence based on the statement of the victim and eyewitness accounts.
A statement from the court read, “It is settled law that the victim of sexual assault is not treated as accomplice and as such, her evidence does not require corroboration from any other evidence including the evidence of a doctor. In a given case even if the doctor who examined the victim does not find sign of rape, it is no ground to disbelieve the sole testimony of the prosecutrix. In normal course a victim of sexual assault does not like to disclose such offence even before her family members much less before public or before the police. The Indian woman has the tendency to conceal such offence because it involves her prestige as well as the prestige of her family. Only in few cases does the victim girl or the family members have the courage to go before the police station and lodge a case. In the instant case, the suggestion given on behalf of the defence that the victim has falsely implicated the accused does not appeal to reasoning. There was no apparent reason for a married woman to falsely implicate the accused after scatting her own prestige and honour.”

Homegrown Verdict: The ruling had both positives and negatives. Rapists deserve the worst of the law, and the ruling meant that escape for them has become more difficult. The ruling was based on the fact that the victim of the rape is not an accomplice to the crime and her statement should be relied upon. The need for corroboration arises only in cases where the court cannot place implicit reliance on the statement of the prosecutrix.
While this may hold true, one must also understand that the law can be wrongly misused with terrible consequences. The fact that a person can be convicted even if medical reports suggest otherwise makes it that much easier for false cases to be lodged. The judges of the Supreme Court also simply assume that the Indian woman is pure and noble and can do no wrong.
That being said, it is still a necessary and progressive step forward in a nation where women have borne the pain brunt of victimization for far too long. This might be considered a tipping of the scales in favour of a community who have had them tipped against them for far too long, so perhaps it is about restoring a balance for the court. Besides which, it’s clear rapists in this country (and plenty of educated people too) need their thinking on this issue rewired.

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