How a gruesome incident led to evolution of Rape Laws
Laws are said to evolve with time, but, what really brings about a change in a law? It is the society. Individuals evolve with time resulting in the society at large changing. A major incident converts the individual anger into public outrage and this is the final push that results in the changes in law. The Mathura Rape Case being one such incident.
India has always faced a problem with rape laws and their implementation, much to the ire of the general public. The loopholes, arbitrariness present in the laws governing rape in India are too many to begin with. However, as mentioned before only after the general public starts feeling discontented with the law at hand can a change begin. The Mathura Rape case was not the first and definitely not the last custodial rape case, but it did ignite a spark that led to developments and evolution of rape laws in India.
Mathura Rape Case: Facts
A heart wrenching rape incident that caught the eye of the public was in the year 1972 in a remote village in Maharashtra, an orphan girl aged around 14 to 16 years, was in a police station with her brother and some acquaintances. While everyone was leaving the police station, a policeman asked the girl to wait. While everyone else was waiting outside two policemen raped the girl. On getting to know of the incident, the people assembled outside the police station forced the police to file a case against the two policemen by threatening them that otherwise they’ll burn down the police station. The case was finally filed.
The Sessions Court acquitted the policemen of any grounds of rape.
The High Court reversed the judgement of the Sessions Court and held that the policemen were guilty of rape, and sentenced them accordingly.
The Supreme Court held that the girl was habitual to sexual intercourse and had no injury marks on her body post the incident. The court laid down the difference between consensual sex and rape and said that the intercourse that happened between the police officials and the girl was consensual in nature and thus not amounting to rape. The Court also noted that the girl might have lured the police officials into having intercourse with her. Stating the above reasons, the Court reversed the judgement of the High Court and acquitted the police officials of rape charges.
While the society was already upset thinking about the nature of offence that was committed, the acquittal given by the Supreme Court added to that pain. So much so, four imminent Indian jurists at that time (Prof. Upendra Baxi, Prof. Vasudha Dhagamwar, Prof. Raghunath Kelkar and Prof. Lotika Sarkar) wrote an open letter to the Chief Justice of India regarding the judgement stating that “this is an extraordinary decision sacrificing human rights of women under the law and the Constitution”. The letter also requested to rehear the matter by a larger bench. The letter ended on the following note “You will no doubt forgive us for this impertinence of writing an open letter to you. But the future of judicial protection of human rights at grassroots level in India at the turn of the century, a concern we all share as citizens and as lawmen, leaves us with no other and better alternative.”
This letter was proof enough of the angst in the public towards the judgement passed by the Supreme Court and thereby, the Parliament realised this angst and brought about major changes in the law post the judgement.
Thus, came into existence the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1983 (11 years after Mathura was raped in a police station by the men sworn to protect her).
The main and primary objective of the Act was to legally make provisions for differentiating between consensual sex and rape and the Act did so by introducing Section 114(A) in the Evidence Act. The Section stated that if the victim said that the intercourse was not consensual then the presumption will be in accordance with it.
Also, sections were added in the Indian Penal Code, making custodial rape a graver offence than rape.
These amendments were applauded and welcomed by the society at large and thus, Mathura Rape case was a landmark case that brought about changes in the law as a result of the public outrage over the lacunae in law present at that time .