CHENNAI: Observing that the evidence of the disabled should not be counted as inferior to that of an able-bodied person, the Madras High Court has upheld the order of a lower court convicting an auto-driver to seven years imprisonment on charges of abducting and molesting a blind woman in 2013.
“Law does not distinguish the evidence of an able-bodied person with that of the disabled. Merely because of the factum of disability, her evidence cannot be treated as inferior in nature to that of an able-bodied person. To do so, could be negation to the constitutional principle of the right of equality,” ruled Judge Teekka Raman, in an order dated July 7.
The convict, Anbuselvan, had appealed against a Mahila Court order that upheld the charges against him and sentenced him for seven years in jail. He was an auto driver, hired by the victim to reach a music institute in Chennai. But he took her to an isolated spot and molested her. On hearing her cries for help, a few locals rescued her.
Anbuselvan’s counsel contended that the identity of the convict was not proved. Since the victim is a visually-challenged person, she cannot be termed as “eye witness” and she can only be treated as a “hearsay witness”. Hence, the counsel argued that her statements indicting the convict must be rejected. The counsel argued that the convict is not the person who had committed the crime.However, the court rejected the arguments by citing precedents set by other higher courts on the matter.
The court ruled, “The blindness meant that she had no visual contact with the world. Her primary mode of identifying those around her, therefore, is by the sound of their voice and so the victim’s testimony is entitled to equal weight as that of a prosecutrix who could have been able to visually identify the appellant.”It also said others who rescued the victim identified the presence of the convict. “In the absence of anything in the cross-examination to disbelieve evidence of the victim and her statements as to the sexual assault... by the accused cannot be rejected merely because she is visually-challenged,” said the judge. The court ordered the State Legal Services Authority to grant a compensation of `1 lakh to the victim.
The convict’s counsel contended that since the victim is visually-challenged, she cannot be termed as “eye witness” and can only be treated as “hearsay witness”. To this, the court said merely because of the factum of disability, her evidence cannot be treated inferior