Calcutta HC: Leaving Home with Accused Doesn’t Justify Rape, Upholds Conviction

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Published on: 11 September 2023 at 19:05 IST

The Calcutta High Court, sitting at its Jalpaiguri bench, recently reaffirmed that even if a woman or girl willingly leaves her home to accompany an accused person, it does not grant the accused the right to commit rape [Hemanta Barman V. State of West Bengal].

In a judgment delivered by Justice Siddhartha Roy Chowdhury, the Court upheld the rape conviction of a man who had been accused of both kidnapping and raping a girl in a 2007 case.

The accused had countered the charges by arguing that he did not kidnap the victim; instead, he claimed that she had left her parents’ home voluntarily to be with him.

However, the Court expressed that even if this version of events were to be accepted as true, it would not justify the man’s actions in committing rape.

The Court stated, “If we go by the maiden statement of the complainant (victim’s father), and if it is assumed that the victim was not abducted or kidnapped but left her house with the accused person on her own, that does not give the accused person the right to invade upon the privacy of the victim girl or to commit any penetrative sexual offense within the meaning of rape.”

Additionally, the Court took into account that the victim girl had contradicted the accused man’s version of events. Consequently, the Court relied on the victim’s statement to convict the accused of rape but acquitted him of the kidnapping charge.

The bench emphasized that when the rape victim’s testimony is credible and trustworthy, the Court can solely rely on it for the conviction of the accused.

“In this case, nothing has come out from the cross-examination of the victim to shake her credibility; therefore, there is no reason to seek corroboration as it would amount to adding insult to the injury already suffered by the victim,” the Court stated.

The case traces back to 2007 when the victim’s father filed a complaint, alleging that Hemanta Barman, then 26 years old, had kidnapped his daughter, who was in class 7 at the time.

The accused contested these allegations, asserting that he had a romantic relationship with the victim. He claimed they worked together, along with the victim’s mother, under the same employer, and that the victim’s father was unaware of their ‘love relationship’ due to his residence elsewhere.

The accused contended that the victim had willingly left her home with him, characterizing the incident as ‘an adventure of two persons in love.’

Conversely, the victim testified in court that she had refused to accompany the accused and that he had forcibly taken her with him. The High Court noted that this statement by the victim was not subjected to cross-examination.

The judge also took into account the victim’s testimony that the accused had confined her for three days and raped her. She further stated that she had cried out during the rape, and the accused man’s relatives questioned her the following day, leading her to disclose the rape.

Based on these statements, the High Court upheld the accused’s rape conviction. Nevertheless, the Court reduced Barman’s prison term from 7 years to 4 years, considering the incident’s 2007 date and the fact that he was the sole breadwinner for his family.

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