In July 2012, a mahila court in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu found a man called V Mohan guilty of raping a minor girl. Besides imposing a Rs 2 lakh fine, the court also sentenced him to seven years in prison.
The victim was an orphan who was living with her adoptive mother. She had become pregnant after the rape and had delivered a child in July 2009, reported The New Indian Express.
After the mahila court verdict, Mohan appealed to the Madras High Court for bail.
And in a shocking verdict which is probably a new low for the judiciary, the Madras High Court judge Justice P Devadass granted interim bail to the accused on the condition that he go to the mediation centre attached to the High Court to settle the matter with the victim under the Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR).
The judge also said Rs 1 lakh should be deposited as fine by Mohan and it should be kept in the Indian Bank, Thittakudi, Cuddalore District as a fixed deposit in the girl's name.
So, according to the verdict, the punishment for the rape of a minor is as follows: Deposit Rs 1 lakh in the victim's name and mediate with the victim who was sexually abused to reach a compromise.
'Mediation mode is best suited'
"In the facts and circumstances, the case before us is a fit case for attempting compromise between the parties. ‘Mediation’ mode is best suited to them…Keeping the appellant inside the jail and asking him to participate in the mediation talk will not result in any fruitful result. He should be enabled to participate in the deliberations as a freeman and vent his feelings, open his mind and moorings. Where there is a will, there is a way," Indian Express quoted the judge as saying.
But as experts have pointed out, this is a completely wrong approach in a criminal offence such as rape.
“Rape is a sexual offence and a non-negotiable offence and one cannot have any mediation except in the situation where the woman alleges breach of promise to marry. Rape is a non-compoundable offence and there has to be a sentence.” The Hindu quoted noted advocate Geetha Ramaseshan as saying.
Also, what would mediation in this case even mean? Would the victim need to marry the rapist? Would it involve monetary compensation? No amount of money or marriage can provide justice to a rape victim.
Moreover, mediation and coming to an agreement involves coming to a middle ground, which suggests that neither of the parties mediating were completely wrong in the case. What wrong did the girl commit in this case to deserve being ordered to settle for something lesser than punishing the culprit? This judgement exposes how deep the mentality of blaming the victim in a rape case goes in our society.
The culprit is also getting an opportunity to "vent his feelings, open his mind and moorings" when the lawyers representing him have made arguments in his favour in the mahila court and the Madras High Court. In fact, the whole system of trial in a court is based on giving the accused a voice. Giving him bail on the basis of a right already exercised is illogical.
'(Previous similar) case is proceeding towards happy conclusion'
In February 2015, the same judge had referred a case in which a man raped a girl who became pregnant and gave birth to a child for mediation.
"Now the said case is proceeding towards a happy conclusion," The Times of India quoted the judgement.
"In fact, even in Islam, Hinduism and Christianity, there are instances of solving the disputes in a non-belligerent manner. The result of it is very good because there is no victor, no vanquished," the judgement noted.
Using religion, mythology and folklore for delivering a verdict in a case of rape rather than reasoning and concrete facts is an insult to the victim. The judgement also stated that the dispute needed to be solved in a "non-belligerent manner".
By ordering mediation in the case, the judgement made the culprit a victor and the victim a vanquished.
'Big question mark looming large before the girl as well as her child'
"The victim-girl has become mother of a child. But as on date, she is nobody's wife. So, she is an unwed mother. Now there is a big question mark looming large before the girl as well as her child, who is completely innocent."
"Generally, in this type of cases, the girl concerned is stated to be a victim, but really speaking the child born out of such a physical contact is also a victim. The child is a victim of circumstances. She had born to suffer a social stigma for no fault of hers. It is a great tragedy," the judgement notes.
The "big question mark" looming over the victim and her child is the fact that her mother is unmarried. So, forget about the fact that the mother and her child will need counselling. Forget about the fact that there are a lot of single mothers in India raising children.
The judgement is in itself a creator of the "big question mark". This question mark, or the social stigma against rape victims, would not exist in the society if people could comfortably fathom the fact that even a rape victim has the freedom to stay unmarried or marry whoever he or she wants, irrespective of whether the victim has a child or not.
The judge, through his statements, also suggests that the "mediation" could actually just be something as simple as getting the culprit and victim married. After all, earlier in June, the Bombay High Court quashed rape charges against a man after he promised to marry the victim, according to DNA.
'Behind every man's success, they (women) are there'
"They (women) are considered as chattels, although in our country they are hailed as Sakthi, Mother, Sister, Nurse, Life Partner, Face Saver, All in one. And behind every man’s success, they are there. They do deserve dignity than indignation," Indian Express quoted the judge as saying.
Even when women are "hailed" as "Sakthi, mother, sister, nurse, life partner, face saver", they are viewed in their roles they play in relation to someone else. The role of a woman is also much more than being behind the success of another man.
Women deserve dignity. Everyone does. But women can only get dignity once we start respecting their individuality and start caring about what they want rather than constantly worrying about the men they are associated with or, more disturbingly, about the men who raped them.
(With inputs from PTI)
Updated Date: Jun 24, 2015 12:31 PM