NEW DELHI: Fifteen years after a man was convicted by a trial court for raping a woman, the Supreme Court has acquitted him saying the 'victim' was not a "trustworthy witness" as she was "blowing hot and cold" and changing her stand from time to time.
The apex court said this while setting aside the judgements of the Andhra Pradesh High Court as well as the trial court which had convicted the man.
In 2011, the high court had upheld the September 2004 verdict of the trial court which had convicted and sentenced him to 10 years jail.
A bench of justices Deepak Gupta and Surya Kant said the trial court had "virtually convicted" the man while relying upon statements recorded by the police and had totally bypassed the statements made on oath before the court.
"It is the statement made on oath in the court which has to be the foundation of conviction," the bench said.
"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. This is a case of victim who is blowing hot and cold and changing her stand from time to time," the bench said while acquitting the man.
According to the police, the man had raped the woman in December 2000 when she was on way home.
She informed her husband about the incident after returning home and an FIR was lodged based on their complaint, the police had said.
The apex court noted in its order that though the woman and her husband were the "two main witnesses" in the case, both of them turned hostile before the trial court while recording of their statements.
It said the woman had supported her case during her examination before the trial court but during her cross-examination, she turned hostile and said she could not see the person who had assaulted her.
"The conviction of an accused cannot be based on a statement of the witnesses recorded under section 161 CrPC (examination of witness by police) or even under section 154 CrPC (information in cognizable cases) 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 said.
"Such a witness cannot be classified as a trustworthy witness and therefore based on her statement alone it would not be proper to convict the accused.
As already stated above, even the husband has not supported the victim," the top court said while allowing the appeal filed by the man challenging the high court's verdict.