The Delhi High Court on Monday, September 25, acquitted filmmaker Mahmood Farooqui, the co-director of acclaimed Indie film Peepli Live, of raping an American woman two years ago. It said, “instances of woman behavior are not unknown that a feeble ‘no’ may mean a ‘yes’”.
Mahmood Farooqui, 44, is best known for directing Peepli Live, a satirical comedy that parodies political and media response to farmer suicides in India.
He is a Rhodes scholar, a literature researcher and author.
During a party at Farooqui’s house in 2015, he allegedly forced himself upon a Colombian University researcher. As per the police, the complainant had approached Farooqui though a common contact for help with her thesis on Indian sects. After a few meetings, the woman had become well-acquainted with him, she said.
After the alleged rape, the woman returned to the US and wrote an email to Farooqui who apologised for ‘misbehaving’. Subsequently, she approached the Delhi police through diplomatic channels, came back to India and lodged a formal complaint on 19 June 2015.
A special fast court initially heard the case last year and convicted Farooqui.
The judgement was important as this was the first Indian trial that recognised forced oral sex as rape.
“This is perhaps one of the first cases of forced oral sex, which shows two things: that there was a crime for which we did not earlier have an offence named – now it has been recognised as rape,” Vrinda Grover, who was representing the complainant, told The Indian Express last year.
The verdict was immediately challenged by Farooqui in the Delhi High Court and his wife Anusha Rizwi said that the alleged rape victim’s complaint was ‘manipulated and false’.
Rama Lakshmi, journalist and correspondent at The Washington Post had written after the court’s verdict that the Colombian University researcher’s idea of who she was, was lost after she was raped by Farooqui. “She did not have the luxury of silence. And we do not have the luxury of cynicism,” she wrote.
The Delhi High Court Verdict
In its verdict, the Delhi HC said, “Instances of woman behavior are not unknown that a feeble “no” may mean a “yes”. If the parties are strangers, the same theory may not be applied. If the parties are in some kind of prohibited relationship, then also it would be difficult to lay down a general principle that an emphatic “no” would only communicate the intention of the other party. If one of the parties to the act is a conservative person and is not exposed to the various ways and systems of the world, mere reluctance would also amount to negation of any consent. But same would not be the situation when parties are known to each other, are persons of letters and are intellectually/academically proficient, and if, in the past, there have been physical contacts. In such cases, it would be really difficult to decipher whether little or no resistance and a feeble “no”, was actually a denial of consent.”
The verdict given by Justice Ashutosh Kumar also goes so far as to assign gender roles to sex. “There are differences between how men and women initiate and reciprocate sexual consent. The normal construct is that man is the initiator of sexual interaction. He performs the active part whereas a woman is, by and large, non-verbal. Thus gender relations also influence sexual consent because man and woman are socialized into gender roles which influence their perception of sexual relationship and expectation of their specific gender roles with respect to the relationship. However, in today’s modern world with equality being the buzzword, such may not be the situation.”
The court set aside the judgment and order of conviction and sentence of Mahmood Farooqui, acquitting of all charges by giving him the ‘benefit of doubt.’
You can read the entire verdict here.