State of M.P vs. Madanlal

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218
The Supreme Court of India
Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction
Case No
Criminal Appeal No. 231 of 2015
Petitioner
State of Madhya Pradesh
Respondent
Madanlal
Date of Judgement
Pronounced on 1st July 2015
Bench
Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Prafulla C. Pant

Synopsis

A criminal appeal was filed by the state of Madhya Pradesh against a rape accused. The accused was charged for the offence under Section 376(2)(f) of IPC (Indian Penal Code)  for rape against a girl about 7 years of age.

Section 376(2)(f) of IPC deals with the offence of rape, committed against a girl below 12 years of age. The trail court after due proceedings held the accused guilty and convicted him for the same and sentenced him for a seven years rigorous imprisonment.

The accused being aggrieved with the decision of the Trail Court, filed an appeal in the High Court. The High Court converted the offence under Section 376(2) (f) to the offence under Section 354 of IPC and reduced the sentence to the period already undergone and presented the affidavit signed by the victim as agreeing for the offer of marriage proposal.

Section 354 of IPC deals with the offence of assault and use of criminal force against women with an intention to outrage her modesty. This is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.

The State of Madhya Pradesh challenged the Judgement of High Court in the apex court of our country. The Supreme Court held that there is no compromise legally permissible in rape cases. And further stated that such an attitude reflects lack of sensibility towards the dignity of women and remitted the case back to the High Court for a reappraisal of the evidences and for a fresh decision.

Facts

A girl aged about seven years was raped by the accused named madanlal. The victim alleged that while she was proceeding towards Haar from her house. The accused met her on the way and told her that her mother, who had gone to graze the goats, had gone towards the river and took her near the river parvati, removed her undergarment and made her sit on his lap and the prosecutrix shouted. He discharged on her private parts as well as on the stomach and washed away the same.

Upon hearing her cry, the mother of the prosecutrix reached the spot and then the accused took to his heels. The prosecutrix narrated the entire incident to her mother as a result of which she lodged an FIR and a criminal case was set in motion. The investigating agency examined a number of witnesses, seized the clothes of the victim and sent certain articles for forensic examination and laid charge sheet before the Sessions court.

The Trail Court on the basis of the materials so brought on record held that the prosecution had been able to establish the charge against the accused and found him guilty and sentenced him accordingly.

In an appeal to the High Court by the accused, it was held that the Trail Court failed to appreciate the evidences in proper perspective and did not consider the material contradictions in the testimony of prosecution witnesses and therefore the sentence of conviction deserves to be annulled. It further noted a substituting submission which was to the effect that the parties had entered into a compromise and a petition seeking leave to compromise was filed before the Trail Court.  And held that the offence being non-compoundable and reduced the sentence to the period already undergone which was slightly more than one year by converting the offence under Section 376(2)(f) to Section 354 of IPC.

In an appeal made by the State of Madhya Pradesh in the Supreme Court, it was held that there is no compromise legally permissible in rape cases between the accused and the victim and remitted the case back to the High Court for reappraisal of the evidences and a fresh decision.

Arguments

Arguments in favour of Petitioners

  • The High Court has given an outrageous Judgement that promotes an idea of compromise between the rapist and the victims.
  • Rape is a non-compoundable offence and it’s an offence against society and is not a matter to be left for the parties to compromise and settle.
  • There is every chance that the victim might have been pressurized by the convict and might have compelled her to opt for a compromise against her will.
  • The High Court did not bother about the jurisdiction of the appellate court and dislodged the conviction and converted the offence under Section 376(2)(f) to Section 354 and reduced the sentence accordingly.

Arguments in favour of Respondents

  • The Trail Court failed to appreciate the evidences in proper perspective and did not consider the material contradictions in the testimony of prosecution witnesses and therefore the sentence of conviction deserves to be annulled.
  • An alternative submission of affidavit with regard to the compromise and marriage proposal between the parties i.e., the accused and the victim in this case and the affidavit was duly signed by the victim.
  • The Judgement of the High Court with regard to reducing or converting the conviction under Section 376(2)(f) to Section 354 is faultless.
  • The Judgement is absolutely impeccable as the prosecution failed to prove the offence under Section 376(2)(f) read with Section 511 of IPC.

Judgement

The State of Madhya Pradesh challenged the decision of the High court in the apex court of our country. The Supreme Court also noted that the High Court had not perused all the evidence before it and that it does not satisfy the requirement of exercise of the appellate jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court held that there is no compromise legally permissible in rape cases between the accused and the victim and further remitted the case back to the High Court for reappraisal of the evidences and for a fresh decision.

The Court further held that the accused be re-arrested, remanding the matter back to the HC, bench ordered that the accused be taken into custody forthwith by the concerned Superintendent of Police and thereafter the appeal before the High Court be heard afresh.

Case Comment

Dilution or outright waiver of punishment if a rapist offers to marry his victim is an extra-legal step, one that is not written in law anywhere. But it continues to be entertained because the internalization of stigmatization is wide-spread, and even the victims believe it. The story of the rapist permitted to go scot-free if he marries the victim is rooted in the ancient history, and this is more of a gender issue than a religious one.

Rape is a non-compoundable offence and is an offence against society, and is not a matter to be left for the parties to compromise and settle.

The present case not only highlighted the absurdness in the society but the victims falling prey to the heinous judgments and further being severely victimized by marrying the rapist.

It is painful to see how the judiciary reacts to such appeals or the requests made by the accused in such rape cases to set them free or to reduce the punishments by presenting the affidavits forcibly signed by the victim or influencing the same or offering them the proposals of marriage. Such an atrocious judgment of The High Court of Madras is a shame to India’s judicial system.

The girl has already been wronged once. And to add to the distress, her predator neatly escapes the consequences of the crime by simply marrying the girl. You never know, if this practice catches on, rapists might resort to such techniques on any girl they fancy. The rapist also takes advantage of the social stigma that no man will accept a woman who has been raped.

Apart from this, Alternative Dispute Resolution is mostly used in commercial cases or cases of a civil nature. It cannot, under any circumstances, be used in cases of violence especially against women, least of all in cases of sexual assault and the High Court or any other Court has no authority to force a woman rape victim to go for mediation with the rapist.

Edited by J. Madonna Jephi

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

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Sree Ramya
I am Sree Ramya from University College of Law, OU Pursuing BA.LLB. The sphere of Criminal Law, Corporate Law, ADR and Environmental law attract me the most. Whenever I get any free time i like reading books, mostly autobiographies and magazines and I write poems on contemporary social issues. Apart from this I like watching movies and playing chess. I love taking part in quiz and essay competitions added to this I like to attend seminars and conferences on any socio-legal, socio-political and socio-scientific issues. I am a good listener with a lot of patience and I follow the principle of “Speak less and listen more”.