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Sex Workers Cannot Press Rape Charges If Customer Refuses To Pay: Supreme Court

Evidence by a woman alleging rape cannot be the "gospel truth", the bench also said. 

12/10/2016 10:19 AM IST | Updated 12/10/2016 2:45 PM IST
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Supreme Court of India, New Delhi.

A sex worker cannot make a complaint of sexual assault if a customer refuses to pay her, the Supreme Court said while acquitting three persons accused of rape in a 20-year-old case from Bengaluru.

According to a report in The Times of India, in its ruling, the bench, comprising Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Amitava Roy, also said that the evidence given by a woman alleging rape cannot be taken as "gospel truth".

"The evidence of prosecutrix must be examined as that of an injured witness whose presence at the spot is probable but it can never be presumed that her statement should always, without exception, be taken as gospel truth," the bench said, while arbitrating in the case.

A woman, who worked as maid, had alleged she was kidnapped by three men in an autorickshaw, taken to a garage and repeatedly raped. After a Karnataka high court ordered their prosecution, the men had it challenged in the Supreme Court, which came to a different conclusion on examining the case.

On interrogation, the woman's roommate, who deposed as a witness, revealed she used to take financial help from the men. She also alleged that after completing her day's work as a maid, the woman used to take up sex work in the evenings.

The men had apparently refused to pay up Rs 1,000 which they owed her, which had provoked her into filing the complaint. The woman later confessed she had brought the rape charge on the men, hoping to coerce them into paying up her dues.

In its verdict, the court said, "Her vengeful attitude in the facts and circumstances, as disclosed by her, if true, demonstrably evinces a conduct manifested by a feeling of frustration stoked by an intense feeling of deprivation of something expected, desired or promised."

The bench concluded that it was of "the unhesitant opinion that the prosecution has failed to prove the charge against the appellants to the hilt as obligated in law and thus, they are entitled to benefit of doubt".

In India, sex work per se is not illegal, though soliciting and public prostitution are against the law, as is owning a brothel.

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