NEW DELHI: In an important ruling, the Delhi High Court stated that convicting a person based on the sole testimony of a single witness is valid under law, especially in cases of sexual assault where a girl’s reputation is at stake.
Justice Sunita Gupta while overturning the acquittal of a man said, “This approach of the trial court cannot be sustained because the law is well-settled that as a general rule, the court can and may act on the testimony of a single witness provided he/she is wholly reliable. There is no legal impediment in convicting a person on the sole testimony of a single witness.”
The court relied on the Evidence Act and said, “If there are doubts about the testimony, the courts will insist on corroboration. In fact, it is not the number, the quantity, but the quality that is material. The time-honoured principle is that evidence has to be weighed and not counted. The test is whether the evidence has a ring of truth, is cogent, credible and trustworthy or otherwise.”
The court was hearing an appeal filed by the state against the acquittal of accused Pratap Singh by a special women’s court. According to the prosecution, the complainant had gone to the gym where the accused was an instructor and she alleged that on the pretext of giving her a massage, he misbehaved with her and touched her private parts.
“The courts must, while evaluating evidence, remain alive to the fact that in a case of rape, no self-respecting woman would come forward in a court just to make a humiliating statement against her honour such as is involved in the commission of rape on her. The testimony of the victim in such cases is vital and unless there are compelling reasons which necessitate looking for corroboration of her statement, the courts should find no difficulty to act on the testimony of a victim of sexual assault alone to convict an accused where her testimony inspires confidence and is found to be reliable,” the court said while sentencing the accused to one year of rigorous imprisonment.
The trial court had acquitted the accused primarily on the ground that in the cross examination of the complainant it had come about that there was no other woman present inside the gym and that the victim was not examined by the prosecution.
“The testimony of the prosecutrix is not only natural but also trustworthy and worth being relied upon,” the court decreed.