This kind of news reporting can only bias the reader into believing the headline when the actual news is something else. e.g. the headline for news item below says: “Rapist pays victim, goes free”. The actual headline should be something like: “ Man accused of rape pays alleged victim, goes free”. Anyway…
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New Delhi: In an unprecedented order, on February 22, the Supreme Court directed that the FIR against rape accused, Arun Goyal be quashed as he had reached a ‘settlement’ with the victim by paying her Rs4 lakh.
Legal experts believe that this order dilutes the gravity of rape as a crime and goes against the apex court’s own past approach of seeking to deal with rapists with an iron hand.
The victim had alleged that Goyal had raped her by promising to marry her. He had even identified her as his wife when they stayed at a hotel in Jaipur.
Incidentally, the accused and the victim also have a case regarding recovery of money pending in another court. In this case, the two reached an agreement whereby, once Goyal had deposited the disputed money, ‘all pending cases’ between them would be dropped.
They went with this understanding to a mediation centre in Delhi, which put its seal of approval, without realising that ‘all pending cases’ included the rape case. Goyal sought the quashing of the FIR on the basis of the victim’s affidavit and the mediation centre’s order.
In her affidavit, the victim stated that since she had reached a compromise with the accused, and to help in her rehabilitation, the alleged incident of rape registered at the Adarsh Nagar police station be treated as consensual sex. The Delhi High Court last year rejected Goyal’s plea for quashing of the FIR. It had justified its order by citing the apex court judgment in 2008 which had stressed the “social impact of the crime, where it relates offences against women…” and ruled that “…public interest cannot be lost sight of and requires exemplary treatment.”
Goyal then moved the Supreme Court for relief, and got it too. A bench of justices DK Jain and CK Prasad examined the victim’s affidavit and decided that when both the parties are “now trying to rehabilitate themselves”, no useful purpose would be served by keeping the rape FIR alive. The judges refrained from going into the details of the FIR and quashed it. They also directed that the Rs4 lakh Goyal had deposited with the court be disbursed to the erstwhile rape victim.
Analysts consider this order to be “the rarest of rare” dispensations when it comes to showing leniency in a rape case where the accused and the victim reach a compromise.
Till date, such leniency was shown only when the two had agreed to marry each other. But allowing a rape accused to go scot-free on the basis of a financial settlement is unheard of in our judicial history.
Senior Supreme Court lawyer Colin Gonsalves said opinions are divided over whether consensual sex that takes place under a false promise of marriage can be considered as rape. “This is a complicated issue, since there is consent involved at some stage. In a typical rape case, a woman cannot go to a mediation cell for settlement,” said Gonsalves.
Another senior Supreme Court lawyer, KTS Tulsi justified the apex court’s order, holding that if the entire version of the victim is incorrect, then there is nothing left in the case. “There is no point letting the FIR continue when it is consensual sex as accepted by the woman. The SC was justified in quashing such an FIR,” Tulsi said.
However, women’s rights activist Ranjana Kumari wondered how a non-compoundable offense like rape could be converted into a compoundable one. “This can set a wrong precedent. Rape is a heinous crime. If the man is guilty, he should be punished instead of allowing the woman to withdraw the case after taking money,” said Ranjana.
The basic problem in all such cases is that a woman who has consensual sex in return or promise of something; later changes her mind and cries rape. Supreme court has merely tried to wash its hands off from one such headache of a case by thinking good riddance that the parties have themselves settled it. However the real problem will be solved when SC stops giving lollipops to cry-baby kind of women who allege rape only much after things did not go as they had planned for. It can’t allow women to be treated with 19th century standards and talk about justice of the 21st century in the same breath.