1. The four appellants here were tried before the Assistant Sessions Judge of the Assam Valley Districts (Gauhati) on charges of abduction and rape. The appeals were admitted by our predecessors on this Bench. The main, I may almost say, the only argument advanced on behalf of the appellants was that the learned Judge misdirected the jury in relation to the admission of certain evidence with regard to an earlier incident in which these four appellants were concerned.
2. The girl, who was the victim of the attack, had been sent by her parents to work off a debt by acting as a domestic servant to appellant 1 who was a married man and before the debt was discharged under the arrangement, she ran away from appellant 1's house, as she told her parents when she arrived that appellant 1 was bothering her to marry him. She stayed in her parents' house for a short time and then appellant 1 turned up one day, accompanied by his friends appellants 2, 3 and 4, and forcibly took her away back to his house. But she was rescued by her father and some of his friends. Subsequently, another attempt was made which was more successful, because the four appellants turned up once again, dragged the wretched girl back to Budang, appellant 1's house, formally asked her to say 'yes' or 'no' on the question of this marriage, and when she refused to accept Budang, they took her away, according to her story, into a patch of jungle and in a very cold-blooded manner proceeded to illtreat her by means of rape. There was other evidence, e.g. the medical evidence which certainly showed that she had been interfered with. But the complaint against the summing up of the learned Judge which, I may say once again this morning, as this is the second charge of his with which we have been dealing, was a most excellent one, is that he admitted the evidence of first carrying off of the girl; and then it is argued that if it is true that the appellant Budang with his friends came and behaved in this way, he certainly ought not to have admitted such evidence to the jury because it might have prejudiced them as it is evidence of Budang's bad character and therefore cannot be admitted under Section 54, Evidence Act. The answer to this contention seems to me to be that in cases of crime where it is thought desirable by the prosecution to bring evidence of previous conduct of a similar character to the suggested crime before the jury, the intention of Section 54 is not infringed, because that section as I understand it, refers to specific evidence of bad character not confined to acts similar to the crime which was being investigated which may influence the jury on the question of motive which is dealt with in the same connexion and such a motive, of course, must be the same kind of motive that, in all probability actuated the mind of the accused or may have actuated his mind in committing the crime for which he is being tried. There is no doubt that for a long time both in England and in India, and I should imagine in all parts of the British Empire where our principles of criminal jurisprudence are administered, this admission of evidence pointing to directly similar conduct has always been admitted. If it were not admitted, it is quite certain that a great many criminals would escape justice. In these circumstances, we reject these appeals, as we cannot accept this argument. We do not propose to interfere with the sentences which were imposed upon the appellants for a particularly revolting type of offence.
3. I agree.