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Meghalaya HC upholds rape conviction, says still penetration even if survivor wore underpants

HC referred to IPC Section 375 (b) and (c) and said penetration does not have to be complete, dismissing accused’s appeal in 2006 case involving rape of a minor girl.

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New Delhi: The Meghalaya High Court has upheld the conviction of a man for raping a minor girl, dismissing his argument that there was no sexual assault because the survivor was wearing her undergarments at the time of the incident.

A bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice W. Diengdoh held that the rubbing of a male organ on the vagina or urethra of the survivor, despite her wearing her underpants, would amount to penetration.

It said the act is covered under Section 375 (b) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which defines penetration. For the purpose of this section, it added, penetration does not have to be complete.

“Even if it be accepted that the appellant (accused) herein forced his organ into the vagina or urethra of the victim, despite the victim wearing her underpants, it would still amount to penetration for the purpose of Section 375 (b) of the Penal Code,” the court held, dismissing the man’s appeal against his conviction by a trial court.

According to the prosecution, the accused, Cheerfulson Snaitang, sexually assaulted the minor on 23 September, 2006, and a complaint was lodged against him a week later. In his statement, which was also later recorded before a magistrate, the accused confessed to the crime and admitted that he had “lost control over himself” since the victim was a minor.

The child’s medical examination revealed that her vagina was “tender and red and her hymen was ruptured”.

In an opinion given by the medical examiner, the girl was raped and hence, was suffering from mental trauma. During the trial, the examiner substantiated his opinion and maintained that the nature of the hymen tear indicated that the internal injury was due to a push by a foreign body, and not because of any arduous sporting activity.

However, the twist in the case arose when the girl, in her cross-examination during the trial, stated she had not felt any pain after the accused raped her. “It is a fact that the accused person did not penetrate his male organ inside my vagina but he just rubbed from the top of my underwear,” the girl is said to have submitted before the court.

Despite this statement, the trial court on 31 October, 2018 convicted Snaitang.

HC dismisses appeal, ‘there is sufficient evidence of such penetration’ 

In his defence before the high court, the accused cited the girl’s statement and asked it to discard his confession. He argued that the trial court had placed “over-reliance” on his “purported confession.”

To some extent, he denied even having given a confession, and claimed that the executive magistrate who translated his statement into English had done so according to his own perceptions, and not what the accused had actually said.

But according to the high court, even if the victim’s statement in her cross-examination is taken at face value, it would “not imply there was no penetrative sex”.

“If it be accepted that at the relevant time the victim was wearing her underpants and the appellant rubbed his organ from over her underpants, there was no difficulty in penetration,” the court said.

“In any event, by virtue of Section 375 (c)  of the Penal Code, when a person manipulates any part of the body of a woman so as to cause penetration into, inter alia, the vagina or urethra, the act would amount to rape. There is sufficient evidence of such penetration in the present case,” it added.

With regard to the victim’s statement that she never felt any pain at the time of the assault, the court observed there may have been reasons for the victim to claim so. But the medical report, it added, confirmed the tenderness in her private parts, and the victim’s statement “may not absolve the appellant of his guilt”.

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)

Also read: In 2017, govt said criminalising marital rape would harm marriage. Now it’s reviewing stance


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