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REDUCTION IN PUNISHMENT OF RAPE CASES – CONSEQUENCES OF SUGGESTIONS BY THE JUDGES

INTRODUCTION

Marriage is given much importance in a country like India. A girl child is prepared all her life for the day she will get married, and it is often associated with a girl’s reputation. Society has given the institution of marriage a significant position in a woman’s life and has given the burden of reputation in the hands of a girl. But should a girl’s life or reputation be solely based on her marital status? Is her marital status so crucial that even when raped, society is concerned about who will marry the poor girl?

These logical questions arise when someone with supreme and utmost knowledge, a Judge, asks a rape victim if she is willing to marry her rapist and relieve him of the punishment. The paper in hand will discuss at large some instances where the Judges have firmly suggested that the girl marry her rapist, and the reasoning they presented was that the crime committed had ruined the victim’s and the perpetrator’s lives. So, marriage is the only logical explanation that will help the girl restore her reputation in Society, and the guy can live his life normally but with the responsibilities of a wife.[1]

The paper significantly aims to provide contention of both sides, The Judge and the victim. The dilemma that a victim and the judge face regarding the sensitive issue must be discussed. Not the judge or the victim is to be blamed in this scenario, as the only thing they are concerned with is reputation in society.

THE SOCIETY AND THE VICTIM

Rape is a heinous crime that can ever happen to a woman. It affects not the physical health of the woman as well as her mental health. Instead of receiving social support, she is subjected to shameful remarks from society. Society, which claims to be the provider of equal rights to all genders, points the finger at the girl who has been raped rather than the man who raped her.

The victim cannot expect support from her family or her friends either. Instead of supporting the victim, they force the victim into marrying the rapist. The victimization behaviour of loved ones, coupled with guilt and humiliation as if they had invited the assaults themselves, frequently undermines their determination to stand for justice. The victim is helpless to decline the wedding proposal, even though they want to.

Often the Victim asks the Court if she can withdraw her complaint and marry the rapist as she cannot take the pressure from her family, and she would instead adjust and suppress her mental stress and emotional pain than put up with the oppression.[2]

THE COURT’S DILEMMA

There have been many instances where the Judges have suggested that the rapist marry the victim to help save the victim’s reputation and secure her future. What is not dwelled upon is that if the victim marries her rapist, it punishes the victim, not the criminal. Apart from the unethical concept of the suggestion, it is not practical either. If the victim is a minor or married, then the question of marriage is out of the equation. Therefore, the suggestion is morally wrong and logically impossible. But, from the Judges’ perspective, they are acting on behalf of Society and making suggestions accordingly.

Several rape cases have had a wedding proposal, in one way or another, vindicated or reduced the penalty. The Chief Justice of India recently told a rape suspect: “Well, if you are interested in getting married, we can assist you. If not, you’ll be arrested and sent to jail”[3].  In other situations, the criminals are frequently permitted to wed the victims, as was when the Bombay High Court granted permission to rape a juvenile suspect.

CASES

The Supreme Court has established an essential precedent by issuing the following orders – 

State of Madhya Pradesh v. Madanlal (2015)[4]

A seven-year-old girl was raped by the accused, Madanlal. The victim’s mother filed an FIR, and a criminal case was set in motion. The trial Court found him guilty. The case was appealed in the High Court. The Court overturned the decision and reduced the sentence. The State of Madhya Pradesh appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled that there is no constitutionally acceptable agreement between the perpetrator and the aggrieved party in rape cases. It remanded the case back to the High Court for a new evaluation of the proof and ruling.

The Court in Aparna Bhat v. State of Madhya Pradesh[5] that patriarchal and stereotypical thinking should never be used since it minimizes sexual offences and seeks to denigrate the victim in answer to an erroneous order made by the Madhya Pradesh High Court, which required the perpetrator of rape to go to the victim’s residence on the date of Raksha Bandhan with Rakhi and be obligated to her as a requirement of bail. The judge made it clear that in rape and sexual assault cases, there can never be an agreement or consideration of one because doing so would be beneath the victim’s honour.

The court in Ramphal v. State of Haryana[6] concluded that compromise is meaningless when looking at incidents of rape and sexual assault. The petitioner further asked that the court make no ruling or order that might impair women’s dignity or the impartial and fair conduct of trials. The petitioner cited several instances in which the Supreme Court rejected compromise proposals because they were inimical to women’s honour and dignity and devalued otherwise heinous crimes by suggesting they could be rectified through the legal system.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A VICTIM MARRIES HER PERPETRATOR

Many times, the victim ends up marrying the accused. There are three instances where the victim marries the accused, and they are: In the first instance, the connection between the two of them is voluntary. But since the girl is a teenager or her family members object to the connection due to caste differences, they blame the man for rape. And during the trial, the guy agrees, and they are married. Secondly, there are also rape instances that fall under the debatable “false commitment to wedding” type, in which the offenders use a fake pledge to marriage to persuade the victims into having intercourse with them. During the trial, the plaintiffs suggest marriage, and the Courts have no choice but to propose marriage.[7]

The third class of rape incidents involved teens in intimate relationships without getting married. The families of daughters who were still children filed these scenarios. In these situations, police hesitate to turn in a first information report (FIR). Still, the judge’s regulations have become so strict that they must abide by and record the incident. Yet, in other types of rape, the incentive to wed the rapist is subtle and unregulated by the law. A court may believe marriage is the appropriate course of action in a rape case, especially if it leads to an unintended pregnancy. Statements on reputation can persuade judges.[8]

CONCLUSION

When a person commits a revenge crime, statutes ought not to absolve him of punishment even if they sincerely regret it.  One cannot avert punishment only by mourning the offence one committed. This would enable everyone who admits fault in the courtroom and accepts responsibility for their actions to be released from any consequences.

When survivors are humiliated and blamed, unusual scenarios arise wherein they are forced into weddings to their abusers. The communities that uphold these beliefs maintain that the only path to social redemption is matrimony to the person who violated the woman’s purity. Although the courts are highly aware of this issue, they must eventually consider the type of community the victim must return to. The adaptation of the general public, changes to the law, and improved safety measures may help to a certain degree. Still, ultimately, it is a psychological shift in culture when individuals are embarrassed by the culprits instead of the victims and desire to shield their daughters instead the honour in her genitalia that will lead to the end of this cruel practice. 

Author(s) Name: Devayani Shukla (Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad)

References:

[1] Jagdev, S. (2015) Indian woman marries her alleged rapist, BBC News. BBC. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-31483956 (Accessed: April 23, 2023).

[2] Thomas, A. (2021) ‘are you willing to marry her?’ Supreme Court to rape accused, Hindustan Times. Available at: https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/are-you-willing-to-marry-her-supreme-court-to-rape-accused-101614646926673.html (Accessed: April 23, 2023).

[3] Mahapatra, D. (2021) We were completely misquoted on ‘will you marry her’ query, CJI says: India News – Times of India, The Times of India. TOI. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/we-were-completely-misquoted-on-will-you-marry-her-query-cji-says/articleshow/81389389.cms (Accessed: April 23, 2023).

[4] State of M.P v. Madanlal (2015) 7 SCC 68

[5] Aparna Bhat v. State of Madhya Pradesh MANU/SC/0193/2021

[6] Ramphal v. State of Haryana, 2019 SCC OnLineSC 1993

[7] Gupta, P. (2020) How India’s rape-survivors end up marrying their rapists, Article 14. Available at: https://article-14.com/post/how-india-s-rape-survivors-end-up-marrying-their-rapists (Accessed: April 23, 2023).

[8] Delhi: Happily ever after marrying rapist? not quite: Delhi News – Times of India (2021) The Times of India. TOI. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/happily-ever-after-marrying-rapist-not-quite/articleshow/84873027.cms (Accessed: April 23, 2023).