A Bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Justice MR Shah and Justice Sanjiv Khanna has reiterated that conviction under Section 376 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) can be imposed upon sole testimony of the victim if she is found to be reliable and trustworthy, without any further corroboration.

"We see no reason to doubt the credibility and/or trustworthiness of the prosecutrix. She is found to be reliable and trustworthy. Therefore, without any further corroboration, the conviction of the accused relying upon the sole testimony of the prosecutrix can be sustained," the Bench observed.

In this case, the rape convict challenged his conviction on the grounds that the prosecution case rests solely on the deposition of the prosecutrix. No other independent witness has been examined and/or supported the case of the prosecutrix. He argued that the doctor in her deposition specifically stated that on examination it was found that there were no external or internal injuries found in the person of the prosecutrix, hence it was a consensual act. The Appellant - Accused also contended that he was not in the city at the time of the incident.

Advocate Aditya Gaggar appeared for the Appellant while Abhay Prakash Sahay, Additional Advocate General, represented the State of Madhya Pradesh.

After hearing the parties, the Bench did not accept the argument of the Appellant that no other independent witnesses have been examined and/or supported the case of the prosecution and that the conviction on the basis of the sole testimony of the prosecutrix cannot be sustained.

"The prosecutrix has fully supported the case of the prosecution. She has been consistent right from the very beginning. Nothing has been specifically pointed out why the sole testimony of the prosecutrix should not be believed. Even after thorough cross-examination, she has stood by what she has stated and has fully supported the case of the prosecution. We see no reason to doubt the credibility and/or trustworthiness of the prosecutrix," the Bench observed.

The Bench referred to previous judgments of the Supreme Court on the subject.

"In the case of Ganesan (supra), this Court has observed and held that there can be a conviction on the sole testimony of the victim/prosecutrix when the deposition of the prosecutrix is found to be trustworthy, unblemished, credible and her evidence is of sterling quality," the Bench stated.

Citing the case of State (NCT of Delhi) v. Pankaj Chaudhary, the Bench stated, "It is observed and held that as a general rule, if credible, conviction of accused can be based on sole testimony, without corroboration. It is further observed and held that sole testimony of prosecutrix should not be doubted by the court merely on the basis of assumptions and surmises."

Referring to the case of Sham Singh v. State of Haryana, the Bench stated, "It is observed that testimony of the victim is vital and unless there are compelling reasons which necessitate looking for corroboration of her statement, the courts should find no difficulty to act on the testimony of the victim of sexual assault alone to convict an accused where her testimony inspires confidence and is found to be reliable. It is further observed that seeking corroboration of her statement before relying upon the same, as a rule, in such cases amounts to adding insult to injury."

The Court did not believe the ground of alibi, while also arguing that the act was consensual, both being contradictory to each other. The Court did not entertain the submission on delay in filing the FIR by observing that her in-laws did not support her and the FIR was lodged after she informed her parents.

The Court rejected the prayer to reduce the sentence as per-amended Section 376.

"As per section 376 IPC pre-amendment, the minimum punishment shall be seven years. However, as per the proviso, the court may, for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than seven years. No exceptional and/or special reasons are made out to impose the sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than seven years. On the contrary and in the facts and circumstances of the case, it can be said that the accused has been dealt with lightly by imposing the minimum sentence of seven years rigorous imprisonment only," the Bench observed.

"The victim was the relative. Nobody in the family at the matrimonial home supported her and she suffered the trauma. She was compelled to go to her parental house and thereafter she was able to lodge the FIR. The accused has come out with a false case/plea of alibi, which is not accepted by the courts below. Under the circumstances, the prayer of the appellant to reduce the sentence and/or to convert the sentence from seven years rigorous imprisonment to seven years simple imprisonment is not accepted and it is rejected," it added.

The Bench confirmed the conviction.

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