Days after the Madras High Court favoured mediation in a rape case, the Supreme Court on Wednesday held that it would be a “spectacular error” to adopt “any kind of liberal approach” in sexual assault cases.
The court was hearing a case related to an attempt to rape a minor in Madhya Pradesh in 2008.
“The conception of compromise, under no circumstances, can be thought of in a case of rape or attempt to rape,” said a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and P C Pant.
“Dignity of a woman is a part of her non-perishable and immortal self and no one should ever think of painting it in clay. There cannot be a compromise or settlement as it would be against her honour, which matters the most. Any kind of liberal approach or a thought of mediation in this regard is thoroughly and completely sans legal permissibility,” it said.
Stating that any proposal by the accused to marry the victim was an attempt to put pressure, the court said: “We say with emphasis that the courts are to remain absolutely away from this subterfuge to adopt a soft approach to the case, for any kind of liberal approach has to be put in the compartment of spectacular error. Or to put it differently, it would be in the realm of a sanctuary of error.”
The bench asserted that sexual assaults are offences which “suffocate the breath of life and sully the reputation” of a woman. “Such an attitude (favouring mediation) reflects lack of sensibility towards the dignity and the elan vital of a woman… it ruptures the sense of justice and punctures the criminal justice dispensation system,” it said.
Last week, a Madras High Court judge referred the case of a minor’s rape for mediation between the victim and the accused, and granted interim bail to the latter. The victim, whose parents are no more, is the mother of a child who was born after the rape. While the victim refused to participate in the mediation, the high court order sparked off an outrage over its legality.
In the Madhya Pradesh case which came up before the SC bench today, the accused, Madan Lal, had sought to compromise with the parents of the seven-year-old victim but the trial judge junked his plea. It held him guilty and sentenced him to jail for five years in 2009. The high court, however, converted the charge into molestation and reduced his sentence to the time that he had already spent in jail, which was little over a year.
The state government challenged this order in the top court. Setting aside the high court order, the bench said the high court judge appeared to be influenced by the compromise between the accused and the victim’s parents, which was impermissible.
The bench referred the matter back to the high court for hearing it afresh. It also asked the police to take the accused into custody during his appeal.