Rape crime is not negotiable, say lawyers on bail for TN rapist

Madras HC judge’s order of mediation in rape case blasted by activists and lawyers

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Shivani Chaturvedi | June 26, 2015


#madras   #high court   #rape   #rapist   #mediation   #devadass   #women  

Lawyers and women's rights activists have termed the order as unacceptable and shocking. These are public reactions against the controversial order of justice P Devadass of the Madras high court in a rape case. Early this week justice Devadass accepted the bail of a rapist and directed him to mediate with his victim.

Advocate Ajtha of Madras high court says, "It is a complete injustice in the particular case. The case is not in a position to come to table for mediation. This order only shows inefficiency of courts."

"Article 14, which says, equality before law and that all people should be treated equally, is not unknown to this judge. Would this judge given the same statement had the victim been from any rich or influential family?" she asks.

When it comes to poor people, judges' verdicts are different, the advocate said.

"Rape is an inexcusable crime. It is not an offence that can be negotiated away,” said senior advocate and rights activist Sudha Ramalingam.

“Unfortunately, there have been several instances through the years where the courts have tried to mediate and find 'solutions' including marriage of the victim to the rapist, or compensation to the victim, in lieu of imprisonment. Criminal law regards rape as a serious offence and does not allow for compounding, i.e. withdrawal of the case by the victim," Sudha said.

The Madras high court has again recommended alternate dispute resolution (ADR) in a case of rape. The decision of justice Devadoss appears to endorse negotiation, or mediation in case of rape. In his judgment, he states that the true victim of the crime is actually the child that the victim gave birth to. Therefore, the court has suggested that through alternate dispute resolution, the accused and the victim find an amicable solution which would then be used to mitigate the sentence of imprisonment. For this reason, the court had released the accused on bail, she adds.

ADR is only suitable for civil cases where essential rights of individuals are not at stake, Sudha says. Serious offences such as rape are not amenable to plea bargaining, or compounding. Whilst so, referring this case to mediation sets a dangerous and undesirable precedent.

It must be remembered that crimes against women were, until recently, regarded as taboo topics, never to be discussed in public or even dealt with seriously. Looking at them through the lens of shame rather than rights had resulted in serious underreporting and also witnesses (including survivor of crime herself) turning hostile resulting in acquittals. It has been a long uphill battle to raise awareness and sensitise the public as to the seriousness and scale of violence against women. Given this history, it is regressive to endorse ADR in case of rape as it appears to trivialize the underlying offence, she said.

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