Shishir Tripathi | June 24, 2015
The absurdity is inherent in the arrest and the trial of Josef K, the protagonist of the Franz Kafka's 'The Trial' and is not something which is uncommon in the courtrooms of India. As a reporter for a national daily in Chandigarh, I came across something that made me wonder if courts are meant to go only by law, or like social institutions, are prisoners of social moors and circumstance and influenced by it.
Sometime in 2014, I was waiting outside one of the courtrooms of the district court of Chandigarh for an order in a case where a minor girl was raped by her 21-year-old neighbour.
Months of regular visit to the court had created a rapport with the court staff, who sometimes use to tell me things which would have made great stories, only if they were not marked as 'off the record'.
While I was flipping though a magazine, to kill the time one court official walked towards me. Before I could ask anything, he informed that the order in the girl’s case will not be pronounced on that day. He was perhaps in a candid mood and asked me to join him for a tea.
As we walked towards the canteen he told me that the accused was been given an option to marry the girl (victim) and given three days to decide on the matter, after which the judgment will be pronounced. Shocked at the option given to the accused, I asked how can the court ask the accused to marry the victim.
I got an answer which somewhat made sense to me but was totally unacceptable. The court staff said, "what will happen if the guy is sent to jail. You will get story for your newspaper. But, what about the girl? She is pregnant. Where will she go? Who will marry her?"
I could rationalize his argument, given the social and economic background of the girl, who would have indeed found it difficult to live as a single mother. But then the intrinsic violence of living with a person who raped her was something which defied all logic.
While I did not argue with the court official and could understand the concern of the court in giving that option to the accused, I still could not reconcile with fact that a court of law can act in such a manner.
Three days after the incident the judgment was pronounced and the accused was acquitted as he had already married the victim.
I realized then that the judges too are human and are moved by considerations other than legal. Today when I read the news of the Madras High Court releasing a rape accused so that he could participate in a mediation process with the victim of his lust, the case reminded me of Chandigarh case.
Again, while I tried to rationalize the decision by the high court as a good-intentioned effort to rehabilitate the victim, I could not stop myself asking the question as to which one is the worst thing to have happen to a woman, to be ravaged by the monster once or to live with the same man. Perhaps, the victim alone can answer.
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