Author: Nikitha Panchagnula, Student at University College of Law, Osmania University.
Citation: (2008) 10 SCC 81
Date of Decision: September 22, 2008
Bench: Arijit Pasayat, Mukundakam Sharma
Original Copy: N/A
Issue in Question:
- Whether the act committed by the accused amounts to rape?
Background of the Case:
- The Prosecutrix one morning left to the field of Bhinya Raika and was returning to Biradhwal. The accused named Premiya came up behind her and grabbed her, threw her to the ground, removed his “Paijama” and raised her “Ghaghra” and committed rape on her. When she attempted to fight back, Premiya struck her in the eye and threatened to murder her if she made a sound. When she shouted out for aid again, Ms. Chandkauri, her aunt-in-law rushed up and challenged him. As a result, Premiya fled the scene of the crime. Later, a doctor conducted a medical examination of the prosecutrix. Post investigation, the accused was charged for offence punishable under Section 376, IPC to which he pleaded not guilty. His statement was recorded under Section 313, CrPC, 1973.
- After hearing, the learned trial judge convicted and sentenced Premiya to 7 years imprisonment. On an appeal, the conclusions of the learned Additional Sessions Judge was upheld by the Hon’ble High Court of Rajasthan. Thereafter, an appeal was filed by the appellant before the Supreme Court.
- Based on the evidence of the prosecutrix, the Court made an observation that the prosecutrix has not mentioned anything specifically about the act committed by the accused but has referred to it as “fondling”.
- The Court in the present case, has altered the conviction of the accused from Section 376 to Section 354 IPC. It opined that, while dealing with a case involving or alleging outrage of modesty, the Court must proceed with caution as there is no abstract conception of modesty that can apply to all instances.
- It held that intention is not the sole criteria to be looked for, for offence punishable under Section 354 IPC. The existence of knowledge or intention has to be filtered out from various circumstances in which and on whom the alleged offence is said to have been committed. Mere knowledge that the modesty of a woman is likely to be outraged would be sufficient without any intention.
- The Court concluded that the Trial Court and the High Court in this case have found the accused guilty after careful review of evidence. But the offence punishable is not 376 but 354 IPC and has hence altered the conviction of the accused.
- The Apex Court while allowing the appeal has ordered that the Appellant be released forthwith as he has already undergone the sentence almost for a period of 2 years.
- A society that is unable to respect, protect and nurture its women and children loses its moral moorings and runs adrift.
- Several shocking instances of violence against women and children have occured in the recent years. In the year 2020, police stations across the country have recorded 24,206 cases of rape. At the highest levels of government, both at the national and state levels, this societal malady must be tackled as a national security concern.
- A prominent change can be implemented starting from schools by incorporating compulsory education on child and women’s rights in the curriculum. Law enforcement officers must be trained to respond quickly and sensitively to women and children who have been molested, harassed or raped. The punishments need to be more strict and have to be covered widely in the media throughout the country. Fast track Courts have to be established to see that the law is precise and unyielding in ensuring that such offenders or the wrong doers face the full force of law irrespective of their rank and status in the society.
- Most importantly, a national campaign is needed to be organised to rekindle essential beliefs and traditions of India that respect and nurture women. This could be achieved if there is a consensus in the society, in the minds of the people. If the community remains adamantly opposed to change, the courts and police would not be in a position to eradicate this kind of violence against women since men who turn a blind eye to such heinous acts in their own neighbourhood or families are just as guilty as the perpetrators of the crime.