New Delhi: Rape accused should not be left scot free by courts on flimsy grounds, the Supreme Court held on Friday while reversing the acquittal of a rapist and murderer of a 11-year-old girl.
"Although the statutory provisions provide strict penal action against such offenders, it is for the Courts to ultimately decide whether such incident has occurred or not," a bench of justices P Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi said.
"The Courts should be more cautious in appreciating the evidence and the accused should not be left scot-free merely on flimsy grounds," it said.
The court noted that the primary concern both at national and international level is about the devastating increase in rape cases and cases relating to crime against women in the world. India is no exception to it, it said.
The apex court passed the judgement while upholding an appeal filed by the UP Government challenging the Allahabad High Court`s acquittal of Munesh who raped and murdered 11-year old Roshini in the Bulandshahar district on March 5, 2002.
Though the Sessions Court had convicted and sentenced Munesh to death for the offence, the high court acquitted him on the ground that there was delay in the registration of FIR and apparent contradiction in the statements of certain witnesses.
Disagreeing with the high court`s reasoning, the bench said the incident occurred at 4.30 pm and the complaint was made by the victim`s father at 11.05 p.M. On the same day itself at the police station which was 2 kms away from the scene of offence.
The delay was on account of the distance and the efforts of the family to cover the girl`s body and trace Munesh who also belonged to the same village.
"If we consider the entire incident as narrated by the father, it cannot be construed that there was any unreasonable and unexplained delay which goes to the root of the prosecution case," the bench said.
The bench said the medical evidence proved that the
victim was raped before her death and the prosecution story is fully corroborated with it but unfortunately, the High Court failed to give importance to this evidence.
"In the instant case, the accused had committed rape, which repels against moral conscience as he chose a girl of 11 years to satisfy his lust and subsequently murdered her.
The analysis and the ultimate conclusion of the High Court was contrary to the acceptable and reliable material placed by the prosecution, it said, adding, "we hold that the accused has first committed the offence of rape and then murdered the deceased."
"We are satisfied that the prosecution has established both the charges under Sections 376(rape) and 302(murder) of IPC," Justice Sathasivam writing the judgement said, while setting aside the high court`s findings.
However, taking note of the fact that the incident occurred in the year 2002, the apex court felt that that rigorous imprisonment for life would meet the ends of justice, instead of the death penalty awarded by the sessions court.
"In view of the same, the respondent-accused is directed to surrender before the concerned authority/Court within a period of two weeks failing which the trial Judge is directed to take necessary effective steps for sending him to prison," the bench added.