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The Supreme Court has recently set aside a judgement of the Andhra Pradesh High Court on the observation that “the conviction of an accused cannot be based on a statement of the witnesses recorded under Section 161, CrPC or even under Section 154, CrPC especially when the witnesses resile from their earlier statements while appearing in the Court and make a completely different statement in the Court”.

A Division Bench of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Surya Kant, acquitted an accused from a rape case by the Trial Court fifteen years ago, in 2004.

The case of the prosecution in Narra Peddi Raju vs. State of Andhra Pradesh now State of Telangana, is that on 04.12.2000 at 5.30 pm when the prosecutrix was returning home, the accused committed rape on her. Immediately on coming home, the prosecutrix informed her husband about the occurrence. Thereafter, they went to the police station at about 9.00 pm in the evening and lodged an FIR. After investigation, the accused was charged of having committed an offence of the aforesaid. There are two main witnesses. The first witness is the victim herself (PW1) and the second witness is her husband (PW2). Both these witnesses turned hostile but the Trial Court convicted the accused on 22.09.2004.

The High Court upheld the conviction of the Trial Court and sentenced him to undergo imprisonment for ten years and pay a fine of Rs.5,000/-.

Allowing the appeal for want of ‘trustworthy witness’, the Apex Court observed that:

“It is the statement made on oath in the Court which has to be the foundation of conviction. The conviction of an accused cannot be based on a statement of the witnesses recorded under Section 161, CrPC or even under Section 154, CrPC especially when the witnesses resile from their earlier statements while appearing in the Court and make a completely different statement in the Court.”

The bench held, “No doubt, it is true that conviction in a case of rape can be based on the sole testimony of the prosecutrix. However, there is one caveat, which is, that the statement should inspire confidence.”

— India Legal Bureau

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