‘The fact that the prosecutrix and the appellant are married (to each other) and have settled in life with their children appears to be “adequate and special reason” for imposing lesser sentence.’
In July 2015, the Supreme Court had pronounced a judgment in which it categorically observed that in a case of rape or attempt of rape, the conception of compromise under no circumstances can really be thought of.
“Sometimes solace is given that the perpetrator of the crime has acceded to enter into wedlock with her which is nothing but putting pressure in an adroit manner; and we say with emphasis that the Courts are to remain absolutely away from this subterfuge to adopt a soft approach to the case, for any kind of liberal approach has to be put in the compartment of spectacular error. Or to put it differently, it would be in the realm of a sanctuary of error,” it was observed in State of MP vs. Madanlal.
These observations were made by Justice Dipak Misra while setting aside Madhya Pradesh High court judgment that had reduced the sentence to the period already undergone by the accused, taking into account the fact that the accused married the prosecutrix.
Calcutta HC Committed Spectacular Error?
Now, three years later, in a judgment pronounced by the Calcutta High Court on 26th July 2018, it has reduced the sentence awarded to a rape accused to ‘the period already undergone’ taking into account the fact that the prosecutrix and the accused are married (to each other) and have settled in life with their children.
Justice Asha Arora observed that such a circumstance appears to be “adequate and special reason” for imposing lesser sentence.
Calcutta HC Followed Another SC Judgment
But this observation by the judge is derived from another judgment of Supreme Court in Ravindra vs. State of Madhya Pradesh. In the said judgment which was delivered by the bench comprising of Justice MY Eqbal and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose in March 2015, the Supreme Court had reduced the sentence of the accused to period already undergone taking note that the incident is 20 years old and the fact that the parties are married and have entered into a compromise, are the adequate and special reasons.
It is pertinent to note that the bench had relied on Justice Katju’s judgment in Baldev Singh vs. State of Punjab which was held “not a precedent” by a three-judge bench in Shimbhu and Another vs. State of Haryana.
SC Had Invoked Article 142 In A Similar Case
Another interesting judgment was recently delivered by a bench of Justice J Chelameswar and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul in Elumalai vs. Inspector of Police, reducing the sentence of an accused who married the victim to period already undergone. But, that was done by the bench invoking its inherent power under Article 142 to do complete justice.
Sanctuary Of Errors
The judgment by Justice Dipak Misra had become so popular as there was an ongoing controversy created by Madras High Court order that had suggested mediation in a rape case. The Madras High Court later recalled the order.
But in spite of such a clear direction by the bench, some high courts have quashed and reduced sentences in rape cases taking into account the factum of marriage.
In March, this year, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had quashed a rape case recording compromise. The Gauhati High Court had also quashed criminal proceedings against a ‘rape accused’ who later married the ‘victim’ observing that chances of conviction in the case is bleak in view of the compromise between the parties and marriage. The Delhi High Court had reduced sentence of rape convict to period already he underwent in custody, because he married the victim.
Now, we will have to wait for the Supreme Court to decide (if any of such case reaches there) whether such a reduction of sentence, or quashing of rape case can be done in cases where the accused and prosecutrix married and are happily settled. The Justice Chelameswar-headed bench had got the opportunity, but it took a shortcut route by invoking Article 142.