Mumbai: he Bombay High Court has confirmed the life imprisonment awarded by a lower court to a man who raped his step daughter thrice after threatening her to keep quiet or face death by throwing her under a train.
The judgement was delivered recently by justices V K Tahilramani and Sadhna Jadhav who said they were convinced with the evidence adduced by the prosecution to show that Devaji Rama Padave had indeed raped his 13-year-old daughter.
The first time the step father raped her was on her birthday on December 7, 2001 at their home in suburban Vikhroli. She tried to shout but he slapped her and tied her mouth with a cloth besides threatening her to push her under a train if she disclosed this to anyone.
The second incident took place on January 3, 2002, when her mother saw the crime being committed on her daughter. But she chose to keep quiet as she too was threatened. On the third occasion, the step father again raped the victim and this time his minor son was witness to this crime.
The mother of the prosecutrix was a widow and used to stay with the accused from whom she begot three children. Hence, she and her children was dependent on Padave because of which they kept quiet.
The victim used to go to church regularly where she had come in contact with a lady, Felcy Fernandes, in whom she confided and told her the miserable story of rape committed by her step father. Fernandes, in turn, took her to police and a case was registered against the accused on April 20, four months after she was raped on the first occasion.
Before the FIR was lodged, the victim had to undergo a test which proved that she was a minor and her age was 13.
The judges rejected the defence argument that there were omissions in the evidence of the victim and that there was a delay of four months in filing complaint.
"It is noticed that the prosecutrix has been cross-examined at length. She is a young girl of hardly 13 years of age. Thus some discrepancies are bound to occur in her evidence," the judges noted.
"As far as the aspect of delay in lodging the FIR is concerned, it was not a single isolated act of rape committed on December 7, 2001, but even thereafter the appellant had raped her on January 3, 2002 and March 20, 2002. Thus, the last incident was about a month prior to lodging of FIR," the judges further observed.
The judges opined that in rape cases, there is invariably delay in lodging the FIR. "It is to be borne in mind that in rape case the prosecutrix is worried about her future. She is in a traumatic state of mind. The family of the victim generally shows reluctance to go to the police station because of societies attitude towards the victim."
"Society casts doubts and shame upon her rather than comfort or sympathise with her. The family also remains concerned with honour and reputation of the prosecutrix and that of the family," the judges noted.
"No straightjacket formula can be laid down in filing FIR in rape cases. In such offences, the criteria may be different altogether. As honour of the family is involved, its members have to decide whether to take the matter to the Court. In such a situation, relations of the prosecutrix may take time as to what course of action should be adopted. Thus, delay is bound to occur," the judges observed.
The bench rejected the appeal filed by the convict and upheld the life sentence awarded to him on April 12, 2004.
He was also given seven years rigorous imprisonment under section 506 (2) of IPC (criminal intimidation). In rape cases, punishment is from seven years to life, depending on the circumstances. In this case, the court gave life term because it felt that the crime was serious.