The Indian Supreme Court has sentenced an illiterate woman to three months in jail for brining up a false claim of rape against two men. Perjury is unacceptable, the judges said.
Mahila of Madhya Pradesh in northern India had charged two persons of her village with sexually assaulting her, back in January 1993.
The complainant, however, retracted during her cross-examination and denied making the charges against the two. She also denied having registered any complaint against them in the first place.
The trial court acquitted the men but initiated perjury proceedings and convicted her to three months imprisonment.
The Madhya Pradesh High Court agreed with the sentencing, against which the woman preferred an appeal in the apex court. But no relief came her way.
Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice P Sathasivam ruled: "Courts should strive harder to tackle the evil of perjury. It has assumed alarming proportions in cases depending on oral evidence and in order to deal with the menace effectively, it is desirable for the courts to use the provision more effectively and frequently."
The Bench said it empathised with the two men, saying they had to "face the ignominy of a trial for a serious offence like rape". "Their acquittal may, to a certain extent, have washed away the stigma, but that is not enough," the judges added.
But activists say while it is one thing to punish those guilty of perjury, the courts should also take note of the helplessness of the poor and the vulnerable in Indian society.
8Almost a similar thing happened during the trial relating to an arson incident in the riots that rocked Gujarat in 2002. Zahira Sheikh who kept changing her testimony was sent to prison for a year by the Supreme court, but those who had induced or forced her into doing so got away scot-free.