Courts warned against showing leniency towards rape convicts by SC; Katju’s 2011 Judgment no longer a precedent

Courts warned against showing leniency towards rape convicts by SC; Katju’s 2011 Judgment no longer a precedent

A three Judge Bench of the Supreme Court has ruled that compromise between rape survivor and rape convict cannot be a ground to reduce sentence of imprisonment.

Further, even an offer of marriage by the accused to rape survivor should not persuade courts to reduce sentence of rape convicts, the Supreme Court noted. The courts can reduce sentence in rape cases under exceptional circumstances but compromise between the assaulted woman and the rapist cannot be a ground for that exception. The apex court ruled that allowing compromise between rape survivor and convict for reduction of sentence would allow the accused to exert every possible pressure on the rape survivor to settle for a compromise.

The SC has justified harsh punishment in rape cases, and observed that rape is not only a physical and mental assault of a woman but also a crime against society. And so courts should not show leniency to rape convicts when it comes to imposing sentence.

It warned the high courts and trial courts against leniency towards rape convicts and also added that orders imposing sentence less than prescribed or releasing accused on the grounds that period of sentence has already been undergone would reflect insensitivity of court towards rape survivor and society.

In Baldev Singh v. State of Punjab a two Judge Bench of Supreme Court consisting of Justice Markandey Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra reduced the mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to the period of sentence already undergone(3yrs) on payment of a sum of Rupees 50,000/- to the victim. The Judgment invited a lot of criticism. Justice Katju himself defended the judgment in his
 as follows:

The reasons for doing so were these;

(a) The parties had themselves filed a joint application before us that they had compromised the matter, and the victim would be satisfied if instead of making the accused undergo further imprisonment some compensation was awarded to her.

(b) The incident was of the year 1997 i.e. about 15 years old, and both the accused and the victim had got married (not to each other). The victim was poor and had 2 children, and by getting some money she could better look after her children.

(c) It was not that the accused had not suffered any imprisonment. They had already undergone 3 and a half years imprisonment. Making them undergo further imprisonment would not help the victim, whereas by giving her some money we could help her feed her children

In the present judgment it is held that the said decision in Baldev Singh’s case cannot be cited as a precedent and  it should be confined to that case. Chief Justice Sathasivam in his judgment said “In Baldev Singh and Others vs. State of Punjab (2011) 13 SCC 705, though courts below awarded a sentence of ten years, taking note of the facts that the occurrence was 14 years old, the appellants therein had undergone about 3 ½  years of imprisonment, the prosecutrix  and  the appellants married (not to each other) and  entered into a compromise, this Court, while considering peculiar  circumstances, reduced the sentence to the period already undergone, but enhanced the fine from Rs. 1,000/- to Rs. 50,000/-. In  the light of series of decisions, taking contrary view, we hold  that  the  said decision in Baldev Singh (supra) cannot be cited as a precedent and it should be confined to that case”.