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Indian Case Summary

The State Of Punjab vs Gurmit Singh & Ors on 16 January, 1996 – Case summary

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In the case of The State of Punjab vs Gurmit Singh & Ors on 16 January 1996, the Supreme Court of India was presented with a case that highlighted the need for sensitivity and understanding in cases of sexual assault. The case was an appeal against the judgment and order of Additional Judge, Special Court, Ludhiana, which had acquitted the respondents of charges of abduction and rape. The Supreme Court’s judgment in this case is noteworthy for its emphasis on the need for courts to approach cases of sexual assault with sensitivity and understanding, and its critique of the lower court’s handling of the case.

Facts of the Case

The prosecutrix, a minor girl studying in the 10th class, was allegedly abducted and raped by the respondents, Gurmit Singh, Jagjit Singh, and Ranjit Singh. The incident occurred on 30th March 1984, when the prosecutrix was returning from her examination center. She was allegedly forced into a car by the respondents and taken to a tubewell where she was raped. The respondents then allegedly left her near her school the next morning. The prosecutrix reported the incident to her mother, who then informed her father. The father reported the incident to the village sarpanch, and when no action was taken, he reported the incident to the police.

Issues Raised

The case raised several issues, including the delay in lodging the FIR, the prosecutrix’s inability to identify the make of the car used in the abduction, and her failure to raise an alarm during the abduction. The trial court had disbelieved the prosecutrix’s version of events for these reasons, leading to the acquittal of the respondents.

Court’s Observations

The Supreme Court criticized the trial court’s handling of the case, stating that the grounds on which the trial court disbelieved the prosecutrix were not sound. The Court noted that the prosecutrix was a village girl and a minor, and it was unreasonable to expect her to identify the make of the car. The Court also noted that the prosecutrix had been threatened by the respondents, which explained her failure to raise an alarm.

The Court further observed that the delay in lodging the FIR was understandable given the nature of the crime and the societal implications for the prosecutrix and her family. The Court also criticized the trial court’s requirement for corroboration of the prosecutrix’s statement, stating that the testimony of a victim of sexual assault is vital and should be believed unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary.

The Court emphasized that the evidence of a victim of sexual assault stands almost at par with the evidence of an injured witness and is even more reliable. The Court stated 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 concluded that the trial court’s approach to the case demonstrated a lack of sensitivity and resulted in a miscarriage of justice.

The Supreme Court’s judgment in this case is a significant commentary on the need for sensitivity in cases of sexual assault and the importance of believing the testimony of the victim. The Court’s observations serve as important guidelines for lower courts in handling such cases.