Rape - Offences against Women

Section 375 IPC. Rape.– A man is said to commit” rape” who, except in the case hereinafter excepted, has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the six following descriptions:-

First.- Against her will.

Secondly.- Without her consent.

Thirdly.- With her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her or any person in whom she is interested in fear of death or of hurt.

Fourthly.- With her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband, and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married.

Fifthly.- With her consent, when, at the time of giving such consent, by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication or the administration by him personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome substance, she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gives consent. Sixthly.- With or without her consent, when she is under sixteen years of age.

Explanation.- Penetration is sufficient to constitute the sexual intercourse necessary to the offence of rape. Exception.- Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.

Where rape is proved, the minimum punishment is ten years for custodial rape, gang rape, rape of pregnant women and minor girls under the age of 12  and seven years in other cases .

The law of rape is not just a few sentences. It is a whole book, which has clearly demarcated chapters and cannot be read selectively. We cannot read the preamble and suddenly reach the last chapter and claim to have understood and applied it.”  –   Kiran Bedi., Joint Commissioner, Special Branch.

In the Mathura rape case , wherein Mathura- a sixteen-year-old tribal girl was raped by two policemen in the compound of Desai Ganj Police station in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra.

Her relatives, who had come to register a complaint, were patiently waiting outside even as the heinous act was being committed in the police station. When her relatives and the assembled crowd threatened to burn down the police chowky, the two guilty policemen, Ganpat and Tukaram, reluctantly agreed to file a panchnama.

 The case came for hearing on 1st June, 1974 in the sessions court. The judgment however turned out to be in favour of the accused. Mathura was accused of being a liar. It was stated that since she was  her consent was voluntary; under the circumstances only sexual intercourse could be proved and not rape.

On appeal the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court set aside the judgment of the Sessions Court, and sentenced the accused namely Tukaram and Ganpat to one and five years of rigorous imprisonment respectively. The Court held that passive submission due to fear induced by serious threats could not be construed as consent or willing sexual intercourse.

However, the Supreme Court again acquitted the accused policemen. The Supreme Court held that Mathura had raised no alarm; and also that there were no visible marks of injury on her person thereby negating the struggle by her.

The Court in this case failed to comprehend that a helpless resignation in the face of inevitable compulsion or the passive giving in is no consent. However, the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1983 has made a statutory provision in the face of Section.114 (A) of the Evidence Act, which states that if the victim girl says that she did no consent to the sexual intercourse, the Court shall presume that she did not consent.

In Mohd.Habib v. State , the Delhi High Court allowed a rapist to go scot-free merely because there were no marks of injury on his penis, which the High Court presumed was a indication of no resistance.

The most important facts such as the age of the victim (being seven years) and that she had suffered a ruptured hymen and the bite marks on her body were not considered by the High Court. Even the eye- witnesses, who witnessed this ghastly act, could not sway the High Court’s judgment.

Another classic example of the judicial pronouncements in rape cases is the case of Bhanwari Devi, wherein a judge remarked that the victim could not have been raped since she was a dalit while the accused hailed from an upper caste- who would not stoop to sexual relations with a dalit.

In another instance of conscience stirring cases, Sakina- a poor sixteen year old girl from Kerala, who was lured to Ernakulam with the promise of finding her a good job, where she was sold and forced into prostitution. There for eighteen long months she was held captive and raped by clients.

Finally she was rescued by the police- acting on a complaint filed by her neighbour. With the help of her parents and an Advocate, Sakina filed a suit in the High Court- giving the names of the upper echelons of the bureaucracy and society of Kerala.

The suit was squashed by the High Court, while observing that ‘it is improbable to believe that a man who desired sex on payment would go to a reluctant woman; and that the version of the victim was not so sacrosanct as to be taken for granted.

Whereas, in State of Punjab v. Gurmit Singh,  the Supreme Court has advised the lower judiciary, that even if the victim girl is shown to be habituated to sex, the Court should not describe her to be of loose character.

 The Supreme Court has in the case of State of Maharashtra v. Madhukar N. Mardikar,  held that “the unchastity of a woman does not make her open to any and every person to violate her person as and when he wishes. She is entitled to protect her person if there is an attempt to violate her person against her wish. She is equally entitled to the protection of law. Therefore merely because she is of easy virtue, her evidence cannot be thrown overboard.”

Also the Bandit Queen case,  which depicts the tragic story of a village girl. Phoolan Devi, who was exposed from an early age to the lust and brutality of some men. She was married to a man old enough to be her father. She was beaten and raped by him. She was later thrown out of the village- accused of luring boys of the upper caste.

She was arrested by the police and subjected to indignation and humiliation. Was also kidnapped and raped by the leader of dacoits and later by the leader of a gang of Thakurs, who striped her naked and paraded her in front of the entire village. This is truly one story that shows the apathy of the existing society.

In Chairman, Railway Board v. Chandrima Das , a practicing Advocate of the Calcutta High Court filed a petition under Article.226 of the Constitution of India against the various railway authorities of the eastern railway claiming compensation for the victim (Smt. Hanufa Khatoon)- a Bangladesh national- who was raped at the Howrah Station, by the railway security men. The High Court awarded Rs.10 lacs as compensation.

An appeal was preferred and it was contended by the state that:

1 . The railway was not liable to pay the compensation to the victim for she was a foreigner.

2 . That the remedy for compensation lies in the domain of private law and not public law. i.e. that the victim should have approached the Civil Court for seeking damages; and should have not come to the High Court under Article 226.

Considering the above said contentions, the Supreme Court observed:

“Where public functionaries are involved and the matter relates to the violation of fundamental rights or the enforcement of public duties, the remedy would be avoidable under public law. It was more so, when it was not a mere violation of any ordinary right, but the violation of fundamental rights was involved- as the petitioner was a victim of rape, which a violation of fundamental right of every person guaranteed under Article.21 of the Constitution.”

The Supreme Court also held that the relief can be granted to the victim for two reasons- firstly, on the ground of domestic jurisprudence based on the Constitutional provisions; and secondly, on the ground of Human Rights Jurisprudence based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 which has international recognition as the ‘Moral Code of Conduct’ adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nation.

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By Hassham

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