|Supreme Court of India
|2022 SCC Online SC 1494
|Date of the Case
|31st October 2023
|Justice D.Y Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli
|The State of Jharkhand
|Shailendra Kumar Rai@ Pandav Rai
FACTS OF THE CASE:
The facts of the case indicate that the respondent was accused of raping a 16-year-old girl brutally by entering her house on 7th November 2004 in a village named Deoghar. The allegations are that he pushed the girl onto the ground, raped her, and when she screamed, he put kerosene on her which burned her brutally, and then he fled away. Hearing the victim’s scream, her mother and the other villagers came and extinguished the fire.
At Sardar Hospital in Deoghar, the victim was admitted right away. She had the same treatment after suffering horrific injuries. Following his receipt of the incident report, the station-in-charge promptly made his way to the hospital to obtain the victim’s statement. Following the filing of FIR NO. 163 of 2003 and the subsequent inquiry, she detailed the entire episode in her statement. Sections 307, 341, 376, and 448 of the IPC were the subject of a charge sheet. Extreme suffering prevented the sufferer from living, and on December 4, 2004, she passed away.
The session court found the accused guilty and convicted him under the sections mentioned in the above paragraph. The session court sentenced the respondent to a rigorous 10-year imprisonment. The respondent appealed to the high court against the session court’s judgment, following which the high court acquitted him stating that the statement of the victim could not be considered as a dying declaration under section 32. The appellant went to the Supreme Court against the decision of the High Court under Article 134 of the Indian Constitution.
- Whether the statement of the deceased is relevant under Section 32(1) of the Indian Evidence Act 1872.
- Whether the prosecution has proved the charges against the respondent beyond reasonable doubt.
- Whether the two-finger test is legal and serves as a basis for knowing about the sexual activity of a woman.
CONTENTIONS FRAMED BY BOTH THE PARTIES:
- Arguments by the Appellant’s side:
- The victim’s Post-mortem examination was carried out within twelve hours of her death, this fact was misinterpreted by the High Court.
- Another fact that was not examined carefully by the High Court was that R.K. Pandey was not present in the same room, but was present in an adjacent room. This interpretation was wrong since at the time of giving the dying declaration, he was present in the same room as the deceased.
- In addition, the IO said that when inspecting the alleged murder scene, he discovered dust, charred clothing, and an empty bottle containing what seemed to be paraffin. He saw that the wall and floor were covered with flame scars. He took the charred garments and the empty bottle and started a seizure list.
- Deputy Superintendent of Sadar Hospital Dr. R Mahto testified that on December 14, 2004, he performed a post-mortem examination on the deceased’s corpse and found the following:
- The face, chest, and head were all covered in scabs, and there were several open wounds throughout the body. Dr. R Mahto conducted study and concluded that the victim’s extensive burn injuries, which were around six weeks old, caused septicemia, which ultimately resulted in the victim’s death. He detailed his findings and points of view in a post-mortem report that he authored.
- Arguments by the Respondent’s side:
- The statement given to IO by a victim cannot be called a dying declaration since the victim died a month after the incident.
- DR. R.K. Pandey was not present in the same room while recording the dying declaration.
- There were no signs of rape in the medical report except the dying declaration given by the victim
- The family members of the deceased turned out to be hostile witnesses and were unwilling to tell the truth.
JUDGMENT OF THE CASE:
The victim’s Post-mortem examination was carried out within twelve hours of her death, this fact was misinterpreted by the High Court.
Another fact that was not examined carefully by the High Court was that R.K. Pandey was not present in the same room, but was present in an adjacent room. This interpretation was wrong since at the time of giving the dying declaration, he was present in the same room as the deceased.
Another fact is that the IO stated that he examined the scene of the crime and found burnt clothes, an empty bottle of what seemed to be kerosene, and dust in the veranda, where the crime is said to have occurred. He noticed that there were burn marks on the floor and wall. He made a seizure list and grabbed the empty bottle and the burned clothes.
In his testimony, Dr. R Mahto, the Deputy Superintendent of Sadar Hospital, stated that he examined the deceased’s body post-mortem on December 14, 2004, and he discovered the following:
The body was covered with scabs on the face, chest, and head, and there were several open wounds. According to Dr. R Mahto’s study, the victim’s extensive burn injuries, which were sustained around six weeks prior, caused septicemia, which ultimately resulted in the victim’s death. He summarised his thoughts and findings in a post-mortem report that he authored.
- Whether the statement made by the victim relevant under Section 32  of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872?
- The High Court acquitted the accused by stating that the statement made by the victim cannot be treated as a dying declaration under section 32  of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. The basis of this is the earlier Supreme Court ruling in the case Moti Singh & Anr VS. State of Haryana.
- The Supreme Court stated that the situations of both cases are quite different, In the present case it is clear in all respects that the reason behind the death of the victim is septicemia and various injuries that burned her, and this fact is very clear by the statement of the victim to the IO. Therefore, her statement can be treated as a dying declaration under section 32  of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
- Whether the prosecution has established beyond reasonable doubt about the respondent’s guilt?
- By the dying declaration, it is reasonably clear that the accused raped the victim, put her on kerosene, and fled away. The injuries caused to the victim were directly caused by the respondent’s acts. Thus, all these facts made it very clear that the reason behind the respondent’s acts.
- Further, the supreme court also stated that the lack of evidence of rape in the medical report doesn’t show that the accused was not raped. To rely on this statement made, the Supreme Court referred to the previous judgment in the case of Vishnu vs. State of Maharashtra. In this case, the court held that the opinion of the medical team could not be considered conclusive to the existence of any fact.
- Whether the two-finger test is legal and serves as the basis for knowing about the sexual activity of a woman?
- The Supreme Court once again expressed that the test was based on the incorrect assumption which assumes that ‘‘a sexually active woman cannot be raped’’. The Supreme Court criticized the scientific basis of the two-finger test. The so-called two-finger test has no scientific basis, insisting it points out the image of a traumatized victim and is derogatory to her image.
- It cannot be assumed that the victim is not raped on the mere belief that she is sexually active. It cannot be inferred from the very fact that if the woman is sexually active it means that she is not raped. It is an old belief that is so sexist and to even interpret this belief is derogatory to a woman. Whether a woman is raped or not doesn’t depend on the fact that whether she is sexually active or not.
- The bench stated that it is patriarchal that a woman’s testimonial is not believed on the basis of her sexual activity. Furthermore, the court ordered the Ministry of Health to ensure no such practices to be followed anymore. It is banned to conduct such types of tests to verify rape cases.
DEFECTS OF LAW:
The two-finger test is a barbarous test that is still conducted today. This test is based on an old belief which is disrespectful and dishonoring to a woman. The two-finger test violated the right to privacy and dignity as mentioned as a fundamental right under article 21. It was unnecessary of HC to say that there was no evidence of rape in the medical report as she was sexually active before the incident. This very statement made by HC is so dirty and immoral, that it dishonored the image of the victim. This irrational thinking from HC was not acceptable.
Many times before this, it was clearly stated that the sexual activity of a woman cannot be treated as a belief whether the victim is raped or not. In Lilu Rajesh and Anr v. State of Haryana, it was clearly stated that the two-finger test should not be used as it is derogatory to a woman’s image and hence unconstitutional. Therefore, it was not tolerable and not acceptable for the HC to state such immoral beliefs while giving a verdict.
Eventually, the Supreme Court overruled the High Court’s decision and upheld the session court’s judgment stating that the victim’s statement is to be considered as a dying declaration under section32 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Further, the Supreme Court criticized the judgment made by the High Court and admonished the HC saying that to give a judgment on such an old belief is patriarchal to society and derogatory to a woman’s image.
Moreover, the Supreme Court issued guidelines to the Ministry of Health stating that to ensure that no such practices are to be followed anymore. It is immoral and hence unconstitutional.
Name: Hrishika Vishnoi
College of Law, IPS Academy, Indore
 Indian Evidence Act, § 32(1), No. 1, Acts of Parliament, 1872 (India).
 I NDIA CONST. art. 134.
 Moti Singh & Anr v. State of Haryana, JT 2002 (2) SC 133, (2002) 9 SCC 494.
 Vishnu vs. State of Maharashtra, (2006) 1 SCC 283
 The Wire, “Supreme Court’s Move to End Two-Finger Test in Rape Exams Is a Milestone for Women’s Health,” [https://thewire.in/law/supreme-court-two-finger-test-rape-health] (last visited November 29, 2023).
 Lilu Rajesh and Anr vs. State of Haryana, 2013) 2 SCR 774, (2013) 14 SCC 643.
 Indian Evidence Act, § 32(1), No. 1, Acts of Parliament, 1872 (India).