The Supreme Court of India in a judgment pronounced today has held that in a case of rape or attempt of rape, the conception of compromise under no circumstances can really be thought of. The Supreme Court accordingly ruled out mediation in such cases.
The Judgment is very relevant because of the controversial Judgment of Madras High Court in which the Court had ordered mediation in a rape case involving a minor victim
The Apex Court was hearing an appeal filed by State of Madhya Pradesh, against a rape accused. The High Court in the matter had set aside the punishment provided by the Trial Court and restricted the sentence to the period already undergone by the accused. Earlier, the Trial Court had sentenced the person to five years of rigorous imprisonment.
Hearing the appeal filed before it, the bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C. Pant 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 emphasise, 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 honour which matters the most. It is sacrosanct.”
Regarding the cases in which the rape accused marries the victim, the Court observed, “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. We are compelled to say so as such an attitude reflects lack of sensibility towards the dignity, the elan vital, of a woman. Any kind of liberal approach or thought of mediation in this regard is thoroughly and completely sans legal permissibility.”
The High Court in its judgment had also noted the plea made by the accused that the “parties had entered into a compromise and a petition seeking leave to compromise though was filed before the learned trial Judge, it did not find favour with him on the ground that the offence in question was non-compoundable and, therefore, regard being had to the said factum the sentence should be reduced to the period already undergone, which was slightly more than one year.” The High Court had then accepted such a plea along with the observations that there were multiple contradictions in the prosecution’s case.
However, the Supreme Court did not appreciate the judgment of the High Court and observed, “In the instant appeal, as a reminder, though repetitive, first we shall dwell upon, in a painful manner, how some of the appellate Judges, contrary to the precedents and against the normative mandate of law, assuming a presumptuous role have paved the path of unbelievable laconicity to deal with criminal appeals which, if we permit ourselves to say, ruptures the sense of justice and punctures the criminal justice dispensation system.”
It also noted that the High Court had not perused all of the evidence before it and that it does not satisfy the requirement of exercise of the appellate jurisdiction.
Accordingly, the Apex Court remitted the case back to the High Court for reconsideration. It also went ahead and made its observations on compromise in rape cases.
Though the Judgment is widely celebrated, the language used by Justice Dipak Misra invited criticism from Many lawyers and Activists. Supreme Court Lawyer Vrinda Grower wrote a Comment in her Facebook Page as follows;
"The woman's right to bodily integrity stems from constitutional rights, human rights and not conservative notions of reputation, chastity, honour, dignity.Compromise in rape cases is prohibited by law. It is important for Supreme Court, and all other courts to premise their decisions on legal reasoning and not because they are kindly or charitably disposed towards women. Recent judgments of the courts make a compelling case for an urgent dialogue on the constitutional and human right to equality, rights of women and sexual violence, across the legal system".
Also see some of the tweets here
Read the Judgment here.