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“The rape laws do not, unfortunately, take care of the social aspect of the matter and are inept in many respects.”

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NATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH DESK

Shri Bodhisattwa Gautam vs Ms. Subhra Chakraborty – Equivalent citations: 1996 AIR 922, 1996 SCC (1) 490 – Supreme Court of India

Herein the Court observed that the jurisdiction to pay compensation (interim and final) has to be treated to be a part of the overall jurisdiction of the Courts trying the offences of rape which is an offence against basic human rights as also the Fundamental Rights of Personal Liberty and Life. Interim award of Rs. 1,000 per month was awarded to the complainant herein from the date of filing of complaint till pendency of the trial of the criminal matter.

The facts were that the accused not only induced the complainant and cohabited with her, giving her a false assurance of marriage but also fraudulently got certain marriage ceremony performed knowing fully well that the marriage was void. The accused even committed the offence of miscarriage by compelling the complainant to undergo abortion twice against her free will. The way the accused exploited the complainant and abandoned her is nothing but an act of grave cruelty as the same has caused serious injury and danger to the complainant’s health both mentally and physically, as such, the accused above named has committed Criminal offences punishable under Sections 312(causing miscarriage)/420(cheating)/493(Cohabitation caused by a man deceitfully inducing a belief of lawful marriage)/496(Marriage ceremony fraudulently gone through without lawful marriage)/498-A(Husband … of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) of Indian Penal Code.

SC emphasized about the crime of rape and affirmed the view of many feminists and psychiatrists that rape is less a sexual offence than an act of aggression aimed at degrading and humiliating women. It further, stated that “It destroys the entire psychology of a woman … It is only by her sheer will power that she rehabilitates herself in the society which, on coming to know of the rape, looks down upon her in derision and contempt. Rape is, therefore, the most hated crime. It is a crime against basic human rights and is also violative of the victim’s most cherished of the Fundamental Rights, namely, the Right to Life contained in Article 21.”The SC stressed upon the inefficiency of the rape law in India and stated that “The rape laws do not, unfortunately, take care of the social aspect of the matter and are inept in many respects.”

Herein the SC observed that Right to Life would, therefore, include all those aspects of life which go to make a life meaningful, complete and worth-living. “Unfortunately, a woman, in our country, belongs to a class or group of society who are in a disadvantaged position on account of several social barriers and impediments and have, therefore, been the victim of tyranny at the hands of men with whom they, fortunately, under the Constitution enjoy equal status. Women also have the right to life and liberty; they also have the right to be respected and treated as equal citizens. Their honour and dignity cannot be touched or violated. They also have the right to lead an honourable and peaceful life. Women, in them, have many personalities combined. They are Mother, Daughter, Sister and Wife… They must have the liberty, the freedom and, of course, independence to live the roles assigned to them by Nature so that the society may flourish as they alone have the talents and capacity to shape the destiny and character of men anywhere and in every part of the world.”; it stressed.

The SC referred to the case of State of Karnataka v MahabaleshwarGouryaNaik, AIR 1992 SC 2043 = 1992 Suppl. (3) SCC 179, wherein the Court went to the extent of laying down that “even if the victim of rape is not available … on account of her having committed suicide, … the non-availability of the victim will not be fatal and the Court can record a conviction on the basis of the available evidence brought on record by the prosecution.”

It affirmed the decision in Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum v UOI 1995 (1) SCC 14, and held that this decision recognises the right of the victim for compensation by providing that it shall be awarded by the Court on conviction of the offender, subject to the finalisation of Scheme by the Central Government. If the Court trying an offence of rape has jurisdiction to award the compensation at the final stage, there is no reason to deny to the Court the right to award interim compensation which should also be provided in the Scheme. On the basis of principles set out in the aforesaid decision in Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum, the jurisdiction to pay interim compensation shall be treated to be part of the overall jurisdiction of the Courts trying the offences of rape which, as pointed out above is an offence against basic human rights as also the Fundamental Right of Personal Liberty and Life.

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