Allahabad High Court: Burden of Proof in Rape Cases on Both Complainant and Accused

Mainstream
14-Jun-2024
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In a recent ruling, the Allahabad High Court emphasized that while laws on sexual offenses are rightly centered on protecting women, it does not inherently mean that the male partner is always at fault. This observation was made by a Division Bench comprising Justices Rahul Chaturvedi and Nand Prabha Shukla while upholding the acquittal of an accused in a rape case filed on the grounds of a false promise of marriage.


“No doubt, chapter XVI ‘Sexual Offences’, is a women-centric enactment to protect the dignity and honor of a lady and girl and rightly so, but while assessing the circumstances, it is not the only and every time the male partner is at wrong, the burden is upon both of them,” the Court observed.


The case involved an appeal by the complainant against the acquittal of the accused, who had also been charged under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The complainant alleged that in 2019, the accused established a sexual relationship with her on the promise of marriage, but later refused to marry her and made derogatory remarks about her caste.


The accused was charge-sheeted in 2020 and acquitted of rape charges earlier this year by the trial court, which only convicted him under Section 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Dissatisfied with the verdict, the complainant filed an appeal.


The accused countered that the relationship was consensual and that he had decided against marriage upon discovering that the complainant had misrepresented her caste. The Court considered the evidence, noting that the complainant had been married in 2010 and started living separately after two years. The trial court observed that the complainant denied her previous marriage and claimed ignorance about her name in the family register produced as evidence.


“On this score, the learned trial court has rightly given a finding that under circumstances, it is highly unlikely that the accused-respondent have trapped her in the false pretext of marriage. Secondly, assuming for the sake of argument, that some promise was extended to her but after the emergence of this new fact, that victim is already married to [xxx] and that marriage still subsists, then any amount of promise to marry would automatically get evaporated,” the Court stated.


Regarding the applicability of the SC/ST Act, the Court emphasized the importance of caste in social relationships, noting that the complainant failed to clarify her caste claims.


“Therefore, it can be easily inferred that a lady who is already married and without dissolution of her earlier marriage and concealing her caste has maintained the physical relationship for a good 5 years without any objection and hesitation and both of them have visited a number of hotel, lodges at Allahabad and Lucknow and enjoyed the company of each other. It is difficult to adjudicate who is befooling whom?,” the Court remarked.


Ultimately, the Court concurred with the trial court’s decision, stating, “It is an unswallowable proposition that a weaker sex is being used by the male partner for five good years and she keeps on permitting him on so-called false pretext of marriage. Both of them are major and they understand the gravity of the situation and the far-reaching repercussion of pre-marital sex still they maintained this relationship in different places, and different cities, which clearly indicates that this acquisition that she was subjected to sexual harassment and rape cannot be accepted.”


The High Court's ruling underscores the necessity of thorough examination and balanced judgment in cases involving serious allegations such as rape, ensuring that both parties are given a fair chance to present their evidence and claims.


Author: Anushka Taraniya

News writer