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  • Supreme Court’s commendable judgment for the rights of incest rape survivors

    December 20, 2016

    In an admirable move made by the Apex Court of India in India’s rape trial and sentencing jurisprudence overturned the decision of Himachal Pradesh High Court and went ahead with the decision of the trial court in conviction the accused.

    A nine-year-old girl studying in VII Standard visits her grandparents at Aruwan during her winter vacations where her uncle lures her into a remote room and gags her mouth, undresses her, and rapes her. Not only does he gag her so that her screams go unheard, but he also intimidated her not to disclose the mater to anyone threatening her that he would kill her. The survivor falls unconscious, and when she regained her consciousness, she finds herself alone in the room, and silently put on her garments. Due to the embarrassment and humiliation the girl remained silent.

    After a fortnight, the uncle repeated the same act, and it continued again on the survivor’s second visit. It was only after 2-3 years, when the victim suffered from acute stomachache, the child was compelled to confide in her mother. Her parents immediately went to the police station and lodged an FIR for rape. A case was registered under Section 376(2)(f) as well as under Section 506 of the IPC.

    The trial court found the accused guilty of the offence and convicted him for the same. However on an appeal on the above judgment the High Court of Himachal Pradesh held that there existed certain circumstances, which created reasonable doubt in the version of the prosecution.

    The Apex Court said, “By no means, it is suggested that whenever such charge of rape is made, where the victim is a child, it has to be treated as a gospel truth and the accused person has to be convicted.” However the court also held, “At the same time, after taking all due precautions which are necessary, when it is found that the prosecution version is worth believing, the case is to be dealt with all sensitivity that is needed in such cases.”
    The Court comprehending the bitter realities, stated that most of the time, acquaintance rapes, when the culprit is a family member, are not even reported for various reasons, not difficult to fathom. The strongest among those is the fear of attracting social stigma. Another deterring factor which many times prevent such victims or their families to lodge a complaint is that they find whole process of criminal justice system extremely intimidating coupled with absence of victim protection mechanism.
     
    Therefore, the court felt that the time is ripe to bring about significant reforms in the criminal justice system as well and that there is also a dire need to have a survivor centric approach towards victims of sexual violence, particularly, the children, keeping in view the traumatic long lasting effects on such victims.
     
    The Court made it crystal clear that the lower courts should find no difficulty to act on the testimony of the victim of a sexual assault alone to convict the accused and that it would be adding insult to injury to tell a woman that her claim of rape will not be believed unless it is corroborated in material particulars.
     

    OUR TAKE

     
    Rape victims have time and again had to fight for their rights and respect in the society. They already go through a lot during their battle. Realizing this important issue, the Supreme Court of India made a marvelous step towards the India’s rape trial and sentencing jurisprudence by making guidelines for High Courts and lower courts that in cases like incest rapes, the courts must follow a survivor-centric approach and not go by the hoary “proof beyond reasonable doubt” standard. This a major relief for the victims of rape for whom disclosing of the same in society is still a stigma and who are undergoing through a lot of trauma already.
     
     
     


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