‘When it comes from the heart, presiding officer should accept testimony’

Speaking on strengthening of laws to tackle crimes against women, Chief Justice of India Justice P. Sathasivam on Saturday said the statement of a rape survivor should be enough to secure conviction.

“In our country, no girl will go to the police station and say she was raped by this man. When it comes from the heart, the presiding officer should accept her testimony and conviction can be based on it,” Justice Sathasivam said addressing a seminar here on ‘Improving Criminal Investigations’.

On why the apex court recently commuted the death sentence of 15 convicts on death row to life term, Justice Sathasivam said the mercy petitions had been pending for a long time before constitutional authorities. “In some cases, the convicts had gone insane but their medical reports were never shared with the President or the Governor [as the case may be].” Keeping them under solitary confinement for long would amount to denying them rights enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution – Right to Life.

“India is a signatory to many international conventions which uphold the Right to Life,” he added.

Asked about the December 11, 2013 judgment upholding Section 377 of the IPC (which criminalises homosexuality), Justice Sathasivam did not elaborate but said the aggrieved party had the remedy of filing a curative petition before the apex court. Last month, it declined to review its judgment, holding that homosexuality or unnatural sex between two consenting adults was illegal.

Justice Ranjana Desai of the Supreme Court stressed the need for having efficient public prosecutors to secure conviction. “In my view, these appointments are made not on merit but on political considerations.”

Speaking against custodial interrogation, senior counsel Ram Jethmalani said people who led an aesthetic life should not be sent to prison. “The conditions in our prisons are not conducive to them. They will be forced to share their cells with four or five other inmates and hygiene in such prisons is deplorable.”

Other speakers included Justice Mohit Shah, Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court; and Maharashtra Advocate-General Darius Khambata.

All speakers spoke on the need for better forensic science laboratories across the country so that indisputable evidence could be collected and the conviction rate would go up.

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