It would be a “spectacular error” to adopt a soft approach on cases of rape or attempt to rape and there cannot be any compromise or mediation in such cases, the Supreme Court said in a stern message on Wednesday. For three decades now human rights groups and women’s groups have fought difficult battles to have rape recognised as a serious offence both in communities and by courts.
Rights advocates have been concerned by the fact that all too often the view of the judiciary converges with the view of the majority in seeing women’s sexuality as communally owned property, thus removing any articulation of violence from the crime of rape. Compromises are not new to rape cases. Experience and research <g data-gr-id="35">has</g> shown that ‘compromise’ is most often expressed through the law of evidence where witnesses turn hostile.
The tacit argument is that victims of rape face an uphill battle securing psychological closure and then social acceptance from a reluctant society. Her own trauma at the assault and her experience of violence, humiliation, injury and hurt find no place in the public imagination – she is after all an image to be viewed through a patriarchal, misogynist lens. Compromise in rape cases has been confined to the back rooms of court corridors and bargains between community elders, victims’ kin (mostly male), local authorities, and the police, with judges turning a blind eye, for the most part, especially when witnesses turn hostile all of a sudden.
All is forgotten by all except the rape survivor. In this process, she does not seem to count anyway. However, the one source of strength for support groups working with victims of rape is the guarantee in the law that the judge cannot, under any circumstances, invoke extraordinary powers to compound a rape case. On <g data-gr-id="27">Wednesday</g> the Supreme Court prescribed the limits of the law and ensured that the principles of natural justice are not subverted.
In an earlier case, a Madras High Court judge had instructed a rapist to negotiate a compromise with the rape survivor. Legal eagles have said that such a verdict will increase rape cases in the country. Legal experts further said the high court had no power to overwrite expressed provisions of law and rape survivors needs justice instead of sympathy. When a high court implies that rape is a ‘dispute’ between the contending parties; then it implies that conviction need not result in retributive punishment, it implies that compromise and mediation is a good substitute. Rape can’t be wished away as a misunderstanding. Under these facts, the Supreme Court took an excellent decision.