The Punjab and Haryana High Court has suspended the sentence awarded to the three law students from Jindal Global Law School who were convicted for blackmailing and gang raping a student of the same University for about two years.
The Additional District and Sessions Court had, in March this year, awarded 20 years’ of imprisonment to the main accused, Hardik Sikri and his friend Karan Chhabra. The third accused, Vikas Garg, was handed a 7 year jail term. They had now approached the High Court demanding their release during the pendency of their appeals.
Allowing their applications, the Court suspended the sentence awarded to them on the condition that they would not leave the country, abstain from contacting the victim in any manner and would undergo psychiatric counselling “until they are free of their voyeuristic tendencies”. Their parents have been directed to submit to the Court a progress report on this aspect after six months.
The order delivered by the Bench comprising Justice Mahesh Grover and Justice Raj Shekhar Attri said that it intended to “balance the concerns of the victim, demands of the society and law and the element of reformatory and rehabilitative justice”.
“It would be a travesty if these young minds are confined to jail for an inordinate long period which would deprive them of their education, opportunity to redeem themselves and be a part of the society as normal beings. Long incarceration at this stage when the appeal is not likely to mature for some time is likely to result in an irreparable damage. We are also of the opinion that the pendency of the appeal, ironically may work as a guarantee to prevent a repeat resulting from the fear of incarceration in the event of failure of the appeal,” the Bench further observed.
Unfortunately though, it went on to note the victim’s casual relationships and the lack of “gut wrenching violence” as “compelling reasons” for suspending the sentence. The Court noted, “The testimony of the victim does offer an alternate story of casual relationship with her friends, acquaintances, adventurism and experimentation in sexual encounters and these factors would therefore, offer a compelling reasons to consider the prayer for suspension of sentence favourably particularly when the accused themselves are young and the narrative does not throw up gut wrenching violence, that normally precede or accompany such incidents.”
The Bench also lamented the tragedy thrown before them, noting that the “entire crass sequence actually is reflective of a degenerative mindset of the youth breeding denigrating relationships mired in drugs, alcohol, casual sexual escapades and a promiscuous and voyeuristic world.”
The order made references to the statements of the prosecutrix, explaining that it was necessary to “gain and give an insight into the immature but nefarious world of youngsters unable to comprehend the worth of a relationship based on respect and understanding”.
A careful examination of her statement, the Court opined, evidences a “perverse streak” and “offers an alternate conclusion of misadventure stemming from a promiscuous attitude and a voyeuristic mind”.
Thereafter, suspending the sentence, it noted that the Trial Court had not awarded compensation to the victim and as an interim measure, directed all three applicants to pay a total compensation of Rs. 10 lakhs to her.
Read the Order Here