Alleging Rape On Refusal to Marry; Supreme Court Acquits Rape Accused

On 28th September, Hon’ble Justice R. F Nariman, Justice Navin Sinha and Justice Indira Banerjee passed their judgement in the case Maheshwar Tigga vs The state of Jharkhand and acquitted the accused of Rape considering the prior relationship of accused with prosecutirx and delay in filing of FIR.

Brief Facts about Maheshwar Tigga vs The state of Jharkhand are as follows:

An FIR was lodged by the prosecutrix in 1999 alleging that the accused had sexually assaulted her at knifepoint. After the alleged incident, the accused had told her not to disclose the incident to anyone and promised to marry her. The prosecutrix also stated that after the alleged incident, the accused had continued to have physical relations with her. She also stated that even though he promised to marry her, he was going to get married on 20.04.1999.

When the case was placed before Additional Judicial Commissioner, Ranchi, the court held the accused guilty. An appeal was filed before the High Court where the court held that the judgement passed by the Additional Judicial Commissioner, Ranchi was correct. The court was of the view that the appellant wrote the letters to the prosecutrix and their photographs of them together were enough to convict the appellant.

Aggrieved by the order passed by the High Court, the appellant moved the Supreme Court.

Arguments raised before the Supreme Court by parties:-

Arguments raised by the appellant’s counsel:-

  • Senior Counsel Mrs V. Mohana who appeared on behalf of the accused, argued that there was a delay of five years in lodging the FIR and was an afterthought.
  • She further argued that during cross-examination the prosecutrix had admitted that the accused had not raped her on 09.041999.
  • She directed the court’s attention to the letters exchanged between the accused and the prosecutrix and stated that from the contents of letters it is clear that they were in love and it was not a case of rape.
  • It was also stated that in the medical examination report it was clear that the prosecutrix was around 25years of age at the time of the alleged incident and the physical relations between them were consensual so no offence under section 375 IPC can be made out.
  • It was also alleged that questions put to the accused under section 313 were very casual and perfunctory.
  • It was also stated that the accused wanted to marry the prosecutrix but could not go through with it as they were from different religions.

Arguments raised by the respondents:-

  • The counsel of the respondent stated that the delay in lodging the FIR was caused because the accused had promised to marry the prosecutrix.
  • It was also argued that the sister of the prosecutrix had also stated that the accused had raped her and she had come home crying.
  • The accused had told the prosecutrix to stay mum about the incident, which shows that the accused’s intentions were not bonafide.
  • The counsel refuted the claims of the appellant that the physical relations were consensual because, at the time of the incident, the victim was only 14 years old.
  • It was further submitted that the accused had promised to marry the accused only to establish physical relations with her.

Court’s Analysis

The court opined that during the trial, the prosecutrix had told the court that she was 14 years old at the time of the incident but could not back her claim through any documents. It was also observed that the cousin brother of the prosecutrix had stated that she was six years younger to him, and when this statement was given to the court, the cousin was 30 years old. This puts the prosecutrix’ age in question. She had not filed any school documents to prove that her age was 14 years at the time of the incident. In such a case, the benefit of the doubt should be given to the accused.

Hon’ble Judges also went through the questions that were put to the accused as per Section 313 Cr.P.C and observed that they were extremely casual and perfunctory in nature. The court opined that “It stands well settled that circumstances not put to an accused under Section 313 Cr.P.C. cannot be used against him, and must be excluded from consideration. In a criminal trial, the importance of the questions put to an accused are basic to the principles of natural justice as it provides him the opportunity not only to furnish his defence, but also to explain the incriminating circumstances against him. A probable defence raised by an accused is sufficient to rebut the accusation without the requirement of proof beyond reasonable doubt.” 

It was the Judge’s view that in this case, both the victims were in love as proven by their letters and the fact that they had regular physical relations with each other over the years. The families of both the parties knew about their relationship and wanted to get them married, but as they were from different religious backgrounds, the plans could not materialise.

Timing of filing the FIR was also considered, and the court noted that as it was filed four days before the marriage of the accused, it might be a vindictive act.

On the issue that the accused made false promise to marry the prosecutrix, it was observed that even though the prosecutrix knew that due to different religions their marriage might not get solemnised she continued to have physical relations with the accused and therefore this accusation could not be proved.

After examining all the evidence on record and perusal of facts, the court acquitted the accused.

Case Details

Title:- Maheshwar Tigga vs The state of Jharkhand

Case No. CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.  635  OF  2020

Date of Order :- 28.09.2020

Quorum:-  Hon’ble Justice R. F Nariman, Hon’ble Justice Navin Sinha and Hon’ble Justice Indira Banerjee 

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