The Supreme Court recently acquitted two appellants who were convicted and sentenced under Sections 342 and 376(2) (g) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) more than two decades back.

A two-judge bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Rajesh Bindal observed that the findings returned by the trial court were completely perverse noting that there were several discrepancies in the prosecutrix’s story.

"In view of the aforesaid discussion, we are of the opinion that there was no evidence brought on record to connect the present appellants with the offence. The appeal is accordingly allowed and the judgments of both the courts below are set aside. The appellants are acquitted of the charges framed against them," the Court held.

In 1996, an FIR was registered against the appellants Avtar Singh, Sohan Lal, and acquitted accused Gian Singh under Sections 366, 376, 342, 506, and 34 IPC. The complainant and prosecutrix, XYZ, alleged that on July 22, 1996 at around 08.30 PM, Avtar Singh grabbed her while she was in a maize crop field, made her unconscious by making her sniff something, and then took her to a room where he raped her. She later found out the room belonged to Gian Singh, who also raped her the next morning. Avtar Singh and Sohan Lal also raped her repeatedly, and on July 24, 1996, they took her to a bajra field where the rapes continued. She managed to escape and reported the incident to her mother on the same day.

The FIR was filed on July 25, 1996, and the prosecution presented 13 witnesses, including the prosecutrix and her mother, along with other officials. The defense presented four witnesses, including a former sarpanch and the sarpanch of the village during the incident. Avtar Singh and Sohan Lal were charged and convicted under relevant sections, while Gian Singh was acquitted by the trial court in its judgment dated February 27, 1999. Avtar Singh was sentenced to undergo imprisonment for ten years.

Advocate E.R. Sumathy appeared for the appellant and Advocate Karan Sharma appeared for the State.

Counsel for the appellant argued that the prosecution's story was not believable, and there were substantial discrepancies in the evidence. They emphasized that Gian Singh's acquittal broke the chain of events, making the conviction of the appellants questionable. They pointed out the lack of concrete evidence linking the appellants to the crime, such as no match of semen and blood samples. They also raised doubts about the prosecutrix's conduct and the delay in filing the FIR. On the other hand, the counsel for the State maintained that the lower courts correctly appreciated the evidence, and the conviction of the appellants was well-founded, as their involvement in the crime was established. They argued that the defense's plea was not credible, and the one-day delay in filing the FIR was not fatal in such cases.

The Court questioned the credibility of the prosecutrix's story, particularly the claim that she was taken to a room in Gian Singh's haveli unnoticed, despite ongoing construction activity there. The Court highlighted that there are discrepancies in her statements and pointed out that Gian Singh's acquittal broke the chain of events in the prosecution's narrative.

“a major discrepancy found in the statements of the prosecutrix as well as her mother is with reference to handing over the clothes of the prosecutrix to the police," the Court noted.

Moreover, the Bench challenged the lack of concrete evidence linking the appellants to the crime, such as the absence of matching semen and blood samples. The Court also raised doubts about the prosecutrix's conduct, the delay in filing the FIR, and the credibility of her medical examination. Additionally, they criticized the prosecution for not producing a crucial witness who was supposed to have received the clothes with semen stains.

The Apex Court after the aforesaid discussion allowed the appeal acquitting the appellants of the charges framed against them considering the lack of convincing evidence.

Cause Title: Avtar Singh & Anr. v. State of Punjab

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