New Delhi: There is a dire need to have a survivor-centric approach towards victims of sexual violence, particularly children, the Supreme Court on Thursday said while restoring the conviction a man for raping his nine-year-old niece in 2009 and awarded him twelve years jail term.
"Time is ripe to bring about significant reforms in the criminal justice system as well. Equally, there is also a dire need to have a survivor-centric approach towards victims of sexual violence, particularly children, keeping in view the traumatic long lasting effects on such victims," a bench of Justices AK Sikri and AM Sapre said.
The apex court also said, "It would be adding insult to injury to tell a woman that her rape claims will not be believed unless it is corroborated in material particulars."
The bench held guilty a Himachal Pradesh resident saying the evidence brought on record contains positive proof, the credible sequence of events and factual truth linking the respondent (man) with the rape of the prosecutrix and had criminally intimidated her.
The state government had challenged the high court verdict by which the man was acquitted of the rape charge.
The apex court also did not buy the argument of delay in filing the FIR as accepted by the HC, and said, "It is not easy to lodge a complaint of this nature exposing the prosecutrix to the risk of social stigma which unfortunately still prevails in our society."
It said that "a decision to lodge FIR becomes more difficult and hard when accused happens to be a family member. In fact, incestuous abuse is still regarded as a taboo to be discussed in public".
The bench said that not only the honour of the family is at stake but it may also antagonise other relations as well.
"The danger is more within than outside," it said adding that most of the time an acquaintance rapes, when the culprit is a family member, are not even reported for various reasons, not difficult to fathom.
"The strongest among those is the fear of attracting social stigma," it said.
According to the prosecution, the nine-year-old girl was raped by her uncle on several occasions in December 2009 who had also criminally intimidated her.
Later in 2012, the victim complained of stomach ache after which she was medically examined where it came to light that she might have been sexually assaulted somewhere in 2009, thereafter, the victim disclosed to her mother the incidents happened with her earlier and a complaint was lodged.
The man, however, had claimed innocence, alleging that a false case was filed against him due to personal enmity in the family.
A trial court had convicted and sentenced the man, which was later set aside by the high court which had held that the prosecution failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt.