SC: CROSS-EXAMINATION OF MINOR OR UNSOUND RAPE VICTIMS NOT ESSENTIAL FOR CONVICTION.
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Shajeeda O.M Tajdeen, LL.M, S.N.D.T University
The Apex Court made it clear that if a person is accused of sexually assaulting or abusing a woman of unsound mind or a minor, then in such scenarios the process of cross-examination of the victim will not play a pivotal role, if the other evidences or circumstantial evidences are capable enough of proving the crime and guilt of the accused.
The division bench of the Supreme Court headed by A K Goel and Justice U U Lalit stated that acquittal on the grounds of non-examination of the victims shall not be allowed. The Honourable Court set aside the Bombay High Court order and imprisoned an accused for 7 years, by setting aside his acquittal. The said accused was convicted for raping a mentally disabled deaf and dumb minor girl near Nagpur in the year 2008.
By pronouncing this decision, the Apex Court aims to fill in the loopholes in the law where the convicts try to take an advantage of the abnormality of the victim, by mainly relying on the authentication of the evidence during the trail period.
The bench mainly placed its reliance on the corroborative or supplementing evidence to pronounce the accused guilty of the offence of rape, owing to the mental and physical abnormality of the victim, because of which she was not in a state to be encountered with cross-examination.
This judgment of the Apex Court has provided the subordinate courts or the trail courts with guidelines to be followed while handling criminal matters wherein, the mental or physical condition of the victim does not allow her to testify, attest or depose and corroborate in front of the trail court about the sexual assault. Along with this pronouncement, the Supreme Court also instructed all the High Court’s to establish special centres in each district with the suitable environment and required infrastructure which shall be best suited to examine the vulnerable witness of the sexual assault cases. As per the view of the Apex Court establishment of such centres will not only motivate the victim of such assault to come up fearlessly but it will also provide them with a sense of security. The Apex Court also ordered all the High Court to accept the guidelines already formulated by the Delhi High Court in this regard. While pronouncing the decision the division bench also clarified that not less than two such special centres shall be created within the domain of each High Court in a span of three months from the date of pronouncement of the judgement. This is not the first instance, wherein the Apex Court has released guidelines to hold trail in sexual assault cases. Back in 2004, the Apex Court instructed that the accused of the child sexual assault shall be debarred from coming in front of the child victims or witnesses and also the questions which are to be put before the victims while cross-examination should be brought down in writing on a prior basis.