September 22nd, 2017
Three law students from Jindal Global Law School were convicted for blackmailing and gang-raping a student of the same University about two years ago. The Punjab and Haryana High Court has suspended the sentence awarded to them.
In March this year, additional district and sessions court had awarded 20 years’ of imprisonment the main convict, Hardik Sikri and his friend Karan Chhabra, and a 7-year jail term to the third convict, Vikas Garg.
The trio had approached the HC, demanding their release during the pendency of their appeals; following which, the court suspended the sentence awarded to them on the condition they would not leave the country, contact the victim in any manner and would undergo psychiatric counselling “until they are free of their voyeuristic tendencies”.
The verdict was pronounced by Justices Mahesh Grover and Raj Shekar Attri who said that the order is intended to “balance the concerns of the victim, demands of society and law and the element of reformatory and rehabilitative justice,” reported Bar & Bench.
Hardik Sikri had coaxed the female law student into sending nude pictures to him and he had done the same. He used the pictures as a tool for blackmailing the woman who submitted herself to the sexual gratification of Sekhri throughout this period, as per Bar & Bench. The other two convicts also sexually violated her of couple of occasions.
The woman contended that she was made to have sex against her will and she would cut classes to comply with their demands. The HC noted that her testimony appeared to be ‘free from any pressure’.
On the issue of blackmailing the woman that her nude pictures will be made public by the convicts, the court said that they need the strongest condemnation with equal forceful retribution that the law mandates.
However, the court also said that the woman’s testimony illustrated “the immature but nefarious world of youngsters unable to comprehend the worth of a relationship based on respect and understanding“.
“The entire crass sequence actually is reflective of a degenerative mindset of the youth breeding denigrating relationships mired in drugs, alcohol, casual sexual escapades and a promiscuous and voyeuristic world,” it continued.
While suspending the sentence of the three convicts, the court said that punishment should have a balance between retributory, reformative and rehabilitative justice. It also granted bail to all the three rapists.
“It would be a travesty if these young minds are confined to jail for an inordinate long period which would deprive them of their education, opportunity to redeem themselves and be a part of the society as normal beings. Long incarceration of this stage when the appeal is not likely to mature for some time is likely to result in an irreparable damage…”
But the court’s shocking statement did not end there. It also went to the extent of invalidating the gang rape altogether, calling it an “alternate story of causal relationship with her friends”.
“The testimony of the victim does offer an alternate story of casual relationship with her friends, acquaintances, adventurism and experimentation in sexual encounters and these factors would therefore, offer a compelling reasons to consider the prayer for suspension of sentence favourably particularly when the abused themselves are young and the narrative does not throw up gut wrenching violence, that normally precede or accompany such incidents,” the court observed.
Further, the court, while quashing the 20-year prison sentence, directed that the woman be given a compensation sum of Rs 10 lakh to be shared equally by all the three convicts.
The Logical Indian strongly condemns the HC’s verdict. It is appalling to see that a woman who sought the judiciary’s resource for three men raping her on multiple occasions, received the verdict that her rape was an ‘alternate story of causal relationship with friends’. Suspending the 20-year prison term for the convicts with monetary compensation and counselling for ‘voyeuristic tendencies‘, gives the young generation impunity to sexually abuse women with hardly any consequences.
You can read the whole verdict here.