The Cuddalore youth who was accused of raping a minor last year has been acquitted by a Mahila Court after the victim declared that she had married the accused.
As per a TOI Report, the victim submitted her marriage certificate to the Judge when the case came for hearing on December 24. Following this, the judge passed an order acquitting Mohan of rape charges on December 29.
A Police Officer was quoted as saying, “The woman submitted a petition stating that the two got married after they settled the issue amicably. She also produced her marriage certificate in the court and declared that they started living together in Cuddalore district.”
The accused was convicted in July, 2014 by Cuddalore Mahila Court based on evidence that included DNA samples. The Court imposed a fine of Rs. 2 lakh and sentenced him to undergo imprisonment for seven years.
In a decision that had invited a furor in June last year, Justice P. Devadass had recommended that the matter be settled by mediation. But the victim had rejected the proposal. She had told CNN IBN, “I am not ready to talk or get married to him. Why are they asking me to talk to him after seven years?” You may read an analysis of the order here.
The order was slammed by jurists and social activists alike. According to a Zee News report, retired Delhi High Court judge, Justice S.N. Dhingra termed the Madras HC order to “settle” the matter with the victim by mediation as “illegal”, “unwarranted” and “unethical”.
“Rape is a sexual offence and a non-negotiable offence and one cannot have any mediation except in the situation where the woman alleges breach of promise to marry. Rape is a non-compoundable offence and there has to be a sentence,” The Hindu quoted noted advocate Geetha Ramaseshan as saying.
Senior advocate R. Shanmugasundaram, former public prosecutor of Tamil Nadu, said compounding an offence through mediation would not undo the act. He said the court must have tried to exhaust all options before treating the matter on merit.
“Would the man have agreed for a compromise had he been acquitted of the rape charge by the trial court? Desperate to get bail now and acquittal later, he might go through the mediation process,” said an inspector of police, to TOI. “Already police and trial courts are being faulted for poor conviction rate in sexual offence cases. If high courts set at naught a successful rape trial of an underprivileged girl, trial courts and victims will lose faith in higher judiciary,” he told TOI.
A representation had been filed by a group of lawyers in the Court, pointing out that the order did not consider the basic principles of mediation that parties must be willing to come to the process. Such observations, it said, if made by a Judge will “undermine the mediation process and the principle of appropriateness for reference”.
A month after the howler, the Court had recalled the order, keeping in view a Supreme Court order dated July 1. Hearing the appeal filed before it, an Apex Court bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C. Pant had observed, “These are crimes against the body of a woman which is her own temple. These are offences which suffocate the breath of life and sully the reputation. And reputation, needless to emphasize, is the richest jewel one can conceive of in life. No one would allow it to be extinguished. When a human frame is defiled, the “purest treasure”, is lost. Dignity of a woman is a part of her non-perishable and immortal self and no one should ever think of painting it in clay. There cannot be a compromise or settlement as it would be against her honor which matters the most. It is sacrosanct.” You may read the judgment and LiveLaw story here.
Following this, when the High Court was hearing the man’s second appeal, Justice Selvam had observed that the trial court had only relied on the victim’s oral submission and had failed to examine documents establishing her age. The case was referred to the lower Court for verification of the age of the victim, and the conviction was set aside.
The woman’s brother told The Indian Express she was “helpless” after the second High Court order. “After the HC referred her case back to Cuddalore, the court summoned officials to verify the authenticity of her birth certificate. The proceedings went on for days. One day, she took her child to the court and said she will marry him and go with him. The last HC order had dashed her hopes. I was struggling without a job, and she felt she was being a burden, dependent on me. She knew he (the accused) was trying to marry her only to escape conviction. He succeeded,” her brother said.
Her relatives said the accused had contacted and persuaded her for a marriage after he was released from the prison in October. “She knows that this may not be the end of her ordeal. She knew that he was trying to marry her only to escape from conviction. Now he has succeeded. And the court facilitated it,” a relative was quoted as saying.