June 26th, 2015
On Tuesday, the Madras High Court referred a rape case to its mediation centre; the convict had been sentenced to 7 years’ imprisonment. The Judge, P Devadass, declared that “The victim-girl has become the mother of a child. But as on date, she is nobody’s wife. So, she is an unwed mother. Now there is a big question mark looming large before the girl as well as her child, who is completely innocent.”
The Judge granted the accused interim bail on the condition that he will try to reach a mediated agreement with the victim. The Court ordered the advocates of both sides to assist in the mediation process.
Earlier, the accused had offered to marry the victim, now the mother of his child. “Now the said case is proceeding towards a happy conclusion,” Justice Devadass said. The victim, however, is shocked over the Court’s decision. She told reporters that she was neither ready to talk to the convict or mediate with him
This case has sparked a raging debate in the country over the High Court’s powers and the morality of what the judge did. A former Delhi High Court judge called the judgement “illegal and unethical”
The fact that a court of law is okay with a scenario where a convicted rapist can walk free without punishment is horrifying. The rapist was found guilty, he deserves punishment – it’s as simple as that. A Court-suggested mediation brings into the picture various other problems like bribing the victim with money, force by the accused etc. But in the end the argument is plain and simple: if convicted, the person should be punished for the crime he or she commits. If this is encouraged it would have the worst kind of impact on rape laws in our country.
The conclusion that people can draw from the “mediation” approach is this: being a single mother is not okay, but it’s okay for a child to have a rapist as his/her father, or it’s okay for a rape victim to marry the rapist. Not only is this case an example of rape not been taken seriously enough by the legal establishment, it also reflects the (still) patriarchal nature of Indian society where an unwed mother is considered a bigger problem than a convicted rapist.