Evidence of a child witness cannot be rejected per se

Delhi High Court: In a landmark judgment in a case involving brutal rape of a 3 year old girl in 2012, the Bench comprising of Pradeep Nandrajog and Mukta Gupta, JJ has ruled that the evidence of a child witness cannot be rejected per se. It is a rule of prudence that the Court has to closely scrutinize such evidence and if it is convinced about the quality thereto and the reliability of the child witness it can record conviction based on his testimony. While recognizing the fact that assessing the competency of a child witness is not easy and is filled with various difficulties, the Court also passed detailed guidelines on the nature of questions that should be put to a child witness for the said purpose.

In the instant case a 3 year old girl was brutally raped by the accused which resulted in serious injuries to her person, requiring her to undergo three consecutive surgeries. It is important to mention here that the trial court had acquitted the accused while raising doubts on the testimony of the victim being tutored due to that fact that she did not say anything about rape or the person who had raped her, before the Magistrate about one month & twenty days after the incident and her testimony was recorded after about six months after the incident. The State had filed a leave to appeal against the said judgment.

The Court while reversing the trial court’s decision, has held that as per the provisions of Section 118 of the Evidence Act, 1872, all persons are competent to testify, unless the Court considers that by reason of tender years they are incapable of understanding the questions asked and of giving rational answers. It is for the Judge to satisfy himself regarding fulfillment of the requirement of the said provision.

Allowing the appeal and convicting the accused of raping the victim, the Court took note of the medical papers relating to the severe injuries on the victim and has directed the State to ensure that best medical treatment be provided to the victim so that her wounds heal and they do not cause any permanent disablement. It was also directed that if the need be, her treatment should be done at a reputed private hospital and the Secretary (Health), Government of NCT of Delhi shall bear all the expenses. The matter will be heard on the subject of sentence on 27-10-2014. 

To read the full judgment, refer SCCOnLine

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