A seven-year-old girl's testimony given to the judges of the Supreme Court has led it to declare that a rape victim's statement is enough to convict if it is "independent, unbiased and straight forward".
"[The] law is very clear about this that the statement of the victim in isolation itself is sufficient for conviction if [it] reflects that it is independent, unbiased and straight forward to establish the accusation against the accused," the order said on Thursday.
The seven-year-old girl is from Noshki and she and her mother gave testimony in court October 21, as the man who was convicted of sexually harassing her tried to get his verdict overturned in the Supreme Court.
Justices Ijaz ul Ahsan and Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi referred to a recent judgement this year in which the SC categorically held that “rape is a crime that is usually committed in private, and there is hardly any witness". The courts, therefore, do not insist on producing direct evidence to corroborate the testimony of the victim, if it is found to be confidence-inspiring, said the SC. It considers such a testimony of a victim enough to convict an accused person. "A rape victim stands on a higher pedestal than an injured witness, for an injured witness gets the injury on the physical form while the rape victim suffers psychologically and emotionally.”
The case dates to March 27, 2020. An FIR (43/2020) was
registered under Sections 377-B, 354 and 511 of the Pakistan Penal Code at Noshki
Police Station. The woman told the police that she sent her daughter at about
2pm a day earlier to buy matches from a shop. When the child did not come home,
she went looking and heard the child in distress from her neighbor Zahid’s
baithak. When she went in she found her daughter with him. The child’s clothes
had been removed. Zahid had tried to put his penis in her mouth. When the
mother tried to rescue the child, Zahid attacked her and tore her shirt.
Zahid pleaded innocence and produced three witnesses in his defence and the family produced five witnesses when the case went to trial. The court sentenced him to seven years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of half a million rupees. A high court also upheld the trial court’s verdict.
But now Zahid has filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the verdict.
Why did the family delay filing an FIR?
Zahid's lawyer argued that the family went to the police and had an FIR registered after 22 hours, which showed that it was intended to falsely frame Zahid.
The court had something to say about this argument. The judges said that in such like cases victims or their families are reluctant to come forward to promptly report the crime because of the trauma they suffer. They may be scared of being shamed or dishonoured if they allow the victim to be examined by a doctor. This is why there is a delay in reporting a sexual assault to the police. This is not very material, the judges ruled.
Argument: there was no visible injury
Zahid's lawyer argued that the trial court did not properly consider the evidence and that since the victim’s body was not injured, the medical evidence did not support the “ocular account” or what was seen. He prayed the court to acquit Zahid.
Here too, the Supreme Court judges had something to say. The family says that Zahid first undressed the victim and then tried to put his penis in her mouth. The judged said that given that she is only seven years old, did not know what was happening with her and knew Zahid as a neighbor, she may not have resisted his attempts. “Therefore, mere nonavailability of any sign of injury is of no help to the petitioner.”