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SC Affirms Conviction of Accused in Sexual Assault for Exploiting a Victim Suffering From Mental Sickness

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A Full Bench of the Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s decision in reversing the acquittal of the Accused by the Trial Court. It held that a High Court exerting appellate jurisdiction could re-appreciate the entire evidence if it appeared to be perversely assumed by the lower court.

The Bench took the stance that a person who had a mental disorder required special care and affection. The Accused had instead, exploited her condition.

Brief Facts of the Case

The Plaintiff in the case was a girl who was impregnated by the Accused forcibly. After four months, she revealed this to her mother, following which her father filed an FIR against the Accused. She was 31 weeks pregnant by then. The Accused threatened her from disclosing it to anyone. Moreover, she was diagnosed as mentally retarded, due to which she had forgotten the occurrence of the incident.

The Trial court acquitted the Accused due to delay in lodging the FIR and the mental unsoundness of the victim to understand the situation.

However, the High Court reversed this decision. It convicted the accused under IPC Section 376 (Sexual Assault) and Section 506(Criminal Intimidation). The victim was a mentally disabled individual who could not comprehend the wrong committed on her. It sentenced the Accused to 7 years of rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 10,000.

The Accused filed the present appeal against the judgment of the High Court.


Whether the High Court was justified in interfering with the order of acquittal passed by the Trial Court and thereby convicting the Accused?

Appellant’s Arguments

The Trial Court had given appropriate reasons for the Accused’s acquittal. The High Court was not required to re-appreciate evidence when exercising appellate jurisdiction in an appeal. 

There was a delay of 8 months in registering the FIR from the time of the incident. It was thus, not believable that the parents were not aware of the victim’s pregnancy.

The victim’s father accepted that he negotiated with the Accused in terms of their marriage, but the Accused refused, as he was already married and had children. The FIR was, therefore, a vengeful act.

The psychiatrists who examined her gave differing reports of her disability of mind.

Respondent’s Arguments

As the first appellate court, the High Court was within its jurisdiction to re-appreciate the entire evidence, especially the medical evidence.

Accused had not disputed that the child belonged to him. Even then, his statement under Section 313 CrPC was of complete innocence and denial of the offence.

It was a case of sexual assault on a person suffering from mental sickness. The Accused took advantage of the mental condition of the victim. The Counsel argued that the Accused must not be shown any leniency.

Court’s Observations

The Bench stated that in Babu v. the State of Kerala, (2010) 9 SCC 189, the principles to be followed in an appeal against acquittal under Section 378 Cr. P.C was described. It was explained that while dealing with a judgment of acquittal, the appellate Court had to consider the entire evidence. This was to arrive at a finding as to whether the views of the trial court were perverse.

It was observed that in Kuldeep Singh v. Commissioner of Police (1999) 2 SCC 10 that if a decision was arrived at, based on no evidence or thoroughly unreliable evidence and no reasonable person would act upon it, the order would be perverse.

Being the first appellate Court, the High Court was justified in re-appreciating the entire evidence and the Trial Court’s reasoning.

The High Court found that the victim’s IQ was 62, based on the history and mental state examination of the victim. Merely because the victim was able to do some household work, it would not discard the medical evidence that the victim had mild mental retardation. She was not in a position to understand the good and bad aspects of sexual assault.

The Bench also noted that Clause 5 of Section 375 IPC stated that rape was committed if she could not understand her consent’s nature and the consequences due to unsoundness of mind.

The Bench also stated that the High Court had already taken a lenient view in imposing only 7 years of imprisonment. It opined that a person who had a mental disorder or mental sickness deserves special care, love, and affection. Instead, the Accused exploited her.

Court’s Decision

The High Court was justified in reversing acquittal and convicting the Accused for the offences under Sections 376 & 506 IPC.

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