A Tamil Nadu woman, who had resisted a Madras High Court suggestion to marry the man she accused of raping her when she was a minor, returned to him last month with her daughter born out of the rape after his conviction was set aside by another High Court judge and her case sent back to the lower court.
On December 29, the 22-year-old woman, weary of the court battles, told the Cuddalore Mahila Court that she had married the accused after a settlement and they were now living together. The court acquitted the man.
Last June, Justice D Devadass, citing religion and its capacity for reconciliation, had referred her case for mediation with the accused. But the woman had slammed the order: “Did the judge ever think how I suffered all these years?
He knew I had a baby from that rape. And now this single order of his wants me to go through that suffering again.”
In October, Justice A Selvam set aside the man’s conviction and the fine imposed on him. He referred the case back to the Cuddalore court for fresh trial on an appeal filed by the man who claimed the girl was a “major” when they had a “consensual” relationship.
The victim said she was 15 when she was raped in 2008. Her parents passed away and she became the mother of a child born from the rape. The man was convicted and fined Rs 2 lakh by the Cuddalore Mahila Court in 2014 based on evidence that included DNA samples.
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Last October, when the man’s second appeal was being heard by the High Court, the prosecution submitted the woman’s school transfer certificate to prove she was only 15 when she was raped, and that sex with a minor was rape under the law.
But Justice Selvam observed that the trial court had only relied on her oral submission and had failed to examine documents establishing her age. Justice Selvam referred the case back to the lower court for verification of her age and also set aside the man’s conviction. The trial court was directed to refund the fine and compensation sum that had been paid by the accused.
The woman’s brother told The Indian Express she was “helpless” after the second High Court order. “After the HC referred her case back to Cuddalore, the court summoned officials to verify the authenticity of her birth certificate. The proceedings went on for days. One day, she took her child to the court and said she will marry him and go with him. The last HC order had dashed her hopes. I was struggling without a job, and she felt she was being a burden, dependent on me. She knew he (the accused) was trying to marry her only to escape conviction. He succeeded,” her brother said.
Justice K Chandru, a retired High Court judge, said being the appellate authority, the High Court could have verified the documents proving the girl’s age within a week or two instead of referring back her case and releasing the convict.
“There is a popular Tamil proverb which says ‘sometimes it is better to fall at the feet of the accused than the witness’. She must have been forced to choose the same,” Justice Chandru said.