In the Supreme Court of India
1996 AIR 922, 1996 SCC (1) 490
Shri Bodhisattwa Gautam
Miss Subhra Chakraborty
Date of Judgement
15 December, 1995
1. Kuldip Singh, J.
2. Saghir Ahmad, J
The present case is a landmark case, establishing the offence of Rape as against the guaranteed Right of Life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. This case made a significant observation in granting compensation to rape victims and considered it to be an integral and undeniable aspect of ‘Right to Life’. Section 357 and 375A of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, provides for compensation to victims of crimes along with various victim compensation schemes by States and Centre. This judgement specifically emphasised the jurisdiction of the Courts to provide interim compensation to victims of rape, which should be included in such schemes, 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.
Facts of the case
A complaint was registered by Subhra Chakraborty (Respondent herein) who was a student of the Baptist College, Kohima as Criminal Case No. 1/95 under Sections 312/420/493/496/498-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 against Bodhisattwa Gautam (Petitioner herein) who was a lecturer, in the Court of the Judicial Magistrate, 1st Class, Kohima, Nagaland. The Petitioner was accused of deceiving the Respondent by claiming to be in love with her and giving false assurances of marriage with the intent of procuring sexual intercourse with her, dishonestly. That the Petitioner induced the Respondent to cohabit with him however kept deferring the marriage ceremonies for the want of approval of his parents and in the 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 this 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 times against her free will. That 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, a petition was filed by the petitioner in the Gawahati High Court under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 for quashing of the complaint on the basis that the allegations made do not make out any case against him. The High Court by its order dated May 12, 1995 dismissed the said petition. He furthered approached the Supreme Court of India through a Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No. 2675/95 which was dismissed by order dated October 20, 1995 asking him to be present in person on next date of hearing listed on December 12, 1995. In pursuance of the order, Shri Bodhisattwa Gautam appeared before the court and filed an affidavit in reply denying the allegation made against him in contending that the complaint was filed only to harass and humiliate him.
Statue & provisions discussed
1. Section 376, Indian Penal Code, 1860
2. Section 482, Code of Civil Procedure, 1973
3. Section 114, Evidence Act
4. Article 21, The Constitution of India, 1950
1. Whether the order of directing payment of interim compensation comes within the jurisdiction of the Court?
The Court dismissed the Special Leave Petition. The Petitioner was directed to pay a sum of Rs. 1,000/- every month as interim compensation from the date of filing of complaint till pendency of the criminal matter. The Court regarded the crime of rape as violation of the right to lead a dignified life as guaranteed by the Right to Life. Right to Life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution means the right to live with human dignity and consists of all elements that make life meaningful, complete and worth-living. The Court observed that women in India are at a disadvantaged position due to social barriers and impediments and treating them with honour is of utmost importance. The crime of rape is not just against the person (woman herein) 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 recognised the relaxation of the rule of Corroboration of Evidence of the Prosecutrix before recording conviction in an offence of rape and 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.
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 suo-moto 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 jurisdiction to award compensation at both final and interim stage.
- The jurisdiction of the Court to take cognizance of a matter and proceed suo-moto and enforce Fundamental Rights against private bodies or individuals.
- The crime of rape is a human rights violation and also encroaches upon the fundamental right of Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
Edited by Parul Soni
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum v Union of India, 1995 (1) SCC 14.