The landmark case, establishes the offence of Rape against the guaranteed Right of Life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. This case is marked as a significant observation in granting compensation to rape victims and is also considered as an integral and undeniable aspect of ‘Right to Life’. Section 357 and 375A of Code of Criminal Procedure, provides for compensation to victims along with various other compensation schemes by the State and Centre. This judgement specifically emphasises on the jurisdiction of the Courts to provide interim compensation to rape victims, which should be included based on the rationale that if the Court has the jurisdiction to grant compensation after conviction of the offender, the grant to interim compensation would also fall within its overall jurisdiction.
A complaint was registered by Subhra Chakraborty who is the respondent she was a student of the Baptist College, Kohima. The complaint was registered under Sections 312,420,493,496 and 498-A of the Indian Penal Code, against Bodhisattwa Gautam who is the petitioner. He was a lecturer, in the Court of the Judicial Magistrate, Kohima, Nagaland. The Petitioner was accused of deceiving the Respondent claiming to be in love with her and giving her false assurances of marriage with the intent of procuring sexual intercourse with her. The Petitioner induced the Respondent to cohabit with him however kept deferring the marriage ceremonies for the want of approval of his parents and meanwhile got the Respondent impregnated twice. Due the pressure created by the Respondent, he agreed to perform a secret marriage with her by putting Vermillion on her forehead but refrained from disclosing it to anyone and merely used it as a way to convince the Respondent to undergo abortion having full knowledge that the ceremony performed did not constitute as a valid marriage. He made her undergo abortion both the times against her free will. When the petitioner got a new job in Silchar as a lecturer in a Government College, he abandoned the Respondent and refused to consider her as his lawfully wedded wife. The cruelty exercised
by the Petitioner caused serious injury and danger to the complainant’s health both mentally and physically which made her pursue the criminal complaint. Meanwhile, the complaint was filed by the petitioner in the Guwahati High Court under Section 482 of the Crpc, for quashing the complaint on the basis that the allegations made were false. The High Court by its order dismissed the said petition. He furthered approached the Supreme Court of India through a Special Leave Petition which was also dismissed by order asking him to be present in person on the next hearing. In pursuance of the order, Shri Bodhisattwa Gautam appeared before the court and filed an affidavit in reply denying the allegation made and accusing the respondent. He contended that the complaint was filed only to harass and humiliate him.
Whether the order that directed payment of interim compensation comes within the jurisdiction of the Court or not?
The Court dismissed the Special Leave Petition and directed Gautam to pay Rs. 1000 per month as maintenance costs from the date the complaint was filed till the pendency of the criminal matter. The Court regarded the crime of rape as violation of the right to life as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution which means the right to live with dignity. The Court observed that women in India are disadvantaged due to social barriers and impediments to them and cannot live with honour which is of utmost importance. The crime of rape is not just against the person but it’s a violation in rem and is against the basic human rights. The Supreme Court also stressed upon the inefficacy of rape laws in India.
The Court contended that the rule of relaxation of Corroboration of Evidence before recording conviction in an offence of rape, emphasised on the rule of evidence which enables the court to make the presumption that the woman who was the victim of rape had not consented and that the offence was committed against her will thus making Gautam as an accused in the court.
The Court opined that even with the non-availability of the victim, a conviction can be recorded on basis of available evidence brought on record by the prosecution. The court has the Suomoto of jurisdiction to take cognizance and enforce Fundamental Rights especially when it is related to the Right to Freedom and Liberty and Right to Life. The court trying an offence of rape has the jurisdiction to award compensation at both final and interim stage.
Rape is not just a crime against the woman who is a victim, it is a crime against the entire society. It destroys the entire living of a woman and pushes her into deep emotional crisis. It is only by her immense will power that she rehabilitates and restores herself in the society and looks on her in contempt. Therefore, rape is the most hated crime and it is against basic human rights and is violative of the victim’s Fundamental Rights, such as the Right to
Life under Article 21. To many feminists’ rapes is less than a sexual offence it’s an act of aggression which aims at degrading and humiliating a woman. Unfortunately, the rape laws do not, take care of the social aspect and are inappropriate in many aspects.
This article is written by Aanchal Kothari of Amity University, Mumbai.