Bom HC | Not necessary for rape accused to disprove absence of consent beyond reasonable doubt; conviction for rape quashed for lack of proof

Bombay High Court: Rohit B. Deo, J. allowed a criminal appeal filed against the judgment of the Additional Sessions Judge whereby the appellant was convicted for the offence of committing rape repeatedly on the same woman punishable under Section 376(1)(n) IPC along with the offence punishable under Section 506 (criminal intimidation).

The case against the appellant was that he abducted the victim and subjected her to forcible intercourse multiple times. He was convicted as aforesaid and sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment for a term of 10 years. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant filed the present appeal.

F.N. Haidri, Advocate representing the appellant contended that even if it is assumed that there was sexual intercourse, it was consensual. Per contra, TA Mirza, APP appearing for the State submitted that the defence of consent must be rejected because the statutory presumption under Section 114-A of the Evidence Act is not rebutted.

On perusal, the High Court was satisfied that evidence of the victim was not of such sterling quality as would obviate the need to seek corroboration. Perusing further the facts and the medical and forensic evidence, the Court was of the opinion that there were many holes grey areas and it would be absolutely unsafe to base the conviction on victim’s testimony which was not corroborated. As far as defence of consent was concerned, the Court observed that the prosecution failed to prove the foundational facts. It was said: “The legislative intent is not that the accused must disprove the absence of consent beyond a reasonable doubt. It would not be necessary for the accused to adduce direct evidence to prove that there was consent or to disprove the absence of consent. The accused can rely on material brought on record in the cross-examination of the victim and the evidence of the other prosecution witnesses. In the present case, enough material is brought on record in the cross-examination of the victim and the evidence of the other prosecution witnesses to lend credibility to the alternate defence theory that the sex was consensual.”

The Court held that the prosecution failed to prove the offence beyond reasonable doubt and the gulf between suspicion and proof was not bridged. Consequently, the Court acquitted the appellant of all the offence and directed his release. [Mohan v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 1407, decided on 30-07-2019]

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