SUPREME COURT RE-EVALUATES EVIDENCE TO ENSURE PROPER JUSTICE DELIVERY

The #SupremeCourt has recently in Parminder Kaur vs State of Punjab passed a Judgment dated 28-07-2020 and held that as the Trial Court failed to analyse the #evidence and the #defense of the Accused-Appellant properly under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 (#CrPC), so the Apex Court had to re-evaluate the evidence to ensure proper #justice delivery.

In this case, it was alleged by the Victim, a minor girl, that she was forced by the Accused-Appellant, Mrs Parminder Kaur, to indulge in illicit intercourse with the Appellant’s Tenant at her house on 19-02-1996 at 6AM. As soon as her father and few other people reached the crime scene, they managed to save the Victim from the clutches of the Tenant, but the Tenant escaped from the crime scene. Thereafter, the Appellant threatened the Victim that she would harm her brother if she informed the matter to anybody. That is when the Victim filed a First Information Report (FIR) with the Police Station against the Accused-Appellant, five days after the incident happened.

During the trial, the Accused-Appellant denied all the allegations and claimed that there was no tenant residing in her house. Further, she alleged that the complaint by the Victim was made with a different motive. The Accused-Appellant had earlier levelled charges of rape against one, Mr Bhola Singh, who worked with the Victim’s father. So, this complaint by the Victim was made with the motive of taking revenge against the Accused-Appellant.

But the Additional Sessions Judge, Barnala (the Trial Court) summarily rejected the defense of the Accused-Appellant on the ground that malicious prosecutions in case of sexual abuses involving minor children are unlikely to happen. Therefore, the Trial Court passed a Judgment dated 27-02-1999 and convicted the Accused-Appellant with three years of rigorous imprisonment along with fine of Rs. 2000/- under Section 366A of the Indian Penal Code 1860 (IPC) and one year of rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs. 1000/- under Section 506 IPC.

Section 366A IPC penalizes a person who induces and forces a minor girl into illicit intercourse with another person. Whereas, Section 506 IPC penalizes a person who threatens or criminally intimidates another person to cause death or grievous hurt or destruction of property, etc.

Upon appeal, the High Court of Punjab and Haryana (the High Court) observed that there was no proof of enmity shown between the Accused-Appellant and the Victim’s family. Therefore, it was highly improbable that anybody would falsely implicate a woman in such offences. Thus, the High Court passed a Judgment dated 30-11-2009 and upheld the conviction awarded by the Trial Court. Thereafter, the Accused-Appellant filed an appeal before the Supreme Court.

The Apex Court made the following observations in this case:

1- That the Victim’s medical examination was not conducted.

2- That the Trial Court failed to take into consideration that there were glaring differences in the physical descriptions of the Tenant in the Victim’s and her father’s testimonies.

3- That the Trial Court failed to examine important witnesses to the alleged offences.

4- That there is no detail about what happened inside the room when the Victim was locked out.

5- That there was lack of any attempt by the Victim’s father to catch the male Tenant or to trace him later. Further, there was no complaint registered against the said Tenant. This creates a suspicion that the Victim’s story was made up and concocted with different motive.

6- That the police also could not trace the whereabouts of the Tenant or gather any proof that he was residing as a tenant at the Accused-Appellant’s house.

7- That there was a five-day delay in registering the FIR. It is unlikely that a parent would wait for a second incident to happen before approaching the police or panchayat or any social forum. But the Trial Court did not analyse this aspect properly before condoning such delay.  

8- That the Trial Court failed to carefully analyse the defense of the Accused-Appellant under Section 313 CrPC. The Section 313 CrPC provides that the court shall question the accused and give him an opportunity to explain the circumstances appearing in the evidence against him. Such an opportunity is a valuable right of the accused to seek justice and defend oneself.

9- That the Trial Court did not separately analyse the charges of criminal intimidation levelled against the Accused-Appellant before convicting her for the same.

10- That the Trial Court failed to delve into the elements and individual ingredients of Sections 366A and 506 IPC and only focused on negating the defenses put forth by the Accused-Appellant.

11- That although ordinarily the Supreme Court ought not to re-evaluate evidence. But, in an exceptional situation like this, where the lower courts did not assess the evidence properly, the Apex Court had to re-appraise the evidence to ensure justice is delivered properly.

Therefore, the Supreme Court in this case held that the Trial Court failed to delve into the Accused-Appellant’s defense properly and passed a Judgment based on a generalised idea that parents would not ordinarily jeopardize the reputation of their daughter by filing false and malicious cases. Thus, the Apex Court held that as the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Accused-Appellant was guilty of #procuringminorgirls and causing #criminalintimidation, so the Accused-Appellant was acquitted.

Harini Daliparthy

Senior Legal Associate

The Indian Lawyer

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