Even sex-workers have a right to refuse their services and seek redressal when forced, the Supreme Court has ruled, overturning a 2009 Delhi High Court judgement and restoring the 10 years jail awarded to four persons by a lower court.
The top court judgement on Tuesday came on a 1997 gang-rape case in the national capital, asking the convits to surrender within four weeks to serve the remaining sentence.
"Even assuming that the woman was of easy virtue, she has a right of refuse to submit herself to sexual intercourse to anyone," the court observed.
A bench of Justices R. Banumathi and Indira Banerjee held that the High Court erred in brushing aside the evidence of the victim by substituting its views and freeing the accused on the ground of they being falsely implicated, since they had lodged complaint accusing her of being a woman of bad character, who indulged in prostitution.
It also set aside the High Court ordering its registry to lodge complaints against three police personnel for prosecuting them for falsely implicating the four persons.
The Bench said the trial court had rightly held that "even if the allegations of the accused that the woman is of immoral character are taken to be correct, the same does not give any right to the accused persons to commit rape on her against her consent".
It observed that it is now a well-settled principle of law that conviction can be sustained on the sole testimony of the prosecutrix if it inspires confidence.
It held that even in cases where there is some material to show that the victim was habituated to sexual intercourse, no inference such as the victim is of a "loose moral character" can be permissibly drawn from that fact alone.
It noted that "a woman of easy virtue also could not be raped by a person for that reason."