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‘I put myself in the shoes of a victim while judging a case’

K.S. Sudhi
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M. Sasidharan Nambiar, the Special Court judge who tried the Suryanelli case and found all the accused guilty, speaks on principles that should guide a judge

Sasidharan Nambiar, former judge of the High Court of Kerala.— Photo:Vipin Chandran
Sasidharan Nambiar, former judge of the High Court of Kerala.— Photo:Vipin Chandran

As the socio-political and judicial circles of Kerala and even the two Houses of Parliament are abuzz with discussions on Suryanelli Sex Scandal case, one man in Kochi shuts himself from all the bustles of the case.

The debates and discussions rocking the country have its genesis on the findings of M. Sasidharan Nambiar, the Special Court Judge who tried the Suryanelli case. Decades after Mr. Nambiar found all the accused guilty in the case, an order of the Supreme Court nullifying the acquittal of the accused by the Kerala High Court in the case brought the focus back on his verdict.

Yet, Mr Nambiar has grown a special disinterest to the developments of the case and he refuses to speak on the case. It’s not the lack of social concern or insensitiveness to the plight of a victim in a sexual harassment case that forces a silence on Mr. Nambiar. He prefers to uphold the principle that a judge should not speak on a case he tried and this conviction helps him in dodging the media nudging.

However, he would willingly speak on the principles that should guide a judge when trying a case.

“I put myself in the shoes of a victim or a petitioner while judging a case. All through my career as a judicial officer, I have followed this principle, which I believe, would help the judge to comprehend a case in a better manner,” says Mr. Nambiar, who recently retired as the judge of the High Court of Kerala.

What would have been the emotions that ran through the mind of a judicial officer who tried the Suryanelli case where a 16-year-old girl was sexually exploited by 40 persons for months together?

“If you have a daughter of that age, you should be able to understand what it might have passed through the mind of the judge,” said Mr. Nambiar, condensing the sentiments of a father of a girl child and a judge who tried the case.

“A young victim in a sexual abuse case may be muted by threat of the perpetrators of the crime. The victims silence would be brought by intimidation. In such cases, her silence should not be construed as her consent. In an earlier case of custodial rape, where a lower court found that the victim had consented to the sex, the Supreme Court had held that the victim would not be able to give free consent while in custody. Even in case of a sex worker, one cannot have sex with her without her consent. To give consent, one should also have the opportunity to say no without fearing for its consequences,” explains the judge.

Trial in rape cases, felt Mr. Nambiar who had three decades of experience behind him as a judicial officer, would present fresh rounds of torture to the victims. “Such harassments in court rooms can be prevented only by a sensitive judge who should disallow the harrowing questions by the lawyers during the trial. He may even ask the victims not to answer such questions,” he said.

Even when the country is debating the outcome of the apex court’s intervention and hailing the judgement of the trial court, Mr. Nambiar is not ecstatic about the judgement he delivered as the Special Judge. He believes the job of a judge is to act with conviction and deliver the judgement while being true to his conscience in the case. The higher courts may uphold or reverse the findings based on the perception of the judges in the higher judiciary and a judge should not be concerned about the decisions, he says.

sudhi.ks@thehindu.co.in

Harassments in court rooms can be prevented only by a sensitive judge who should disallow the harrowing questions by the lawyers during rape case trial.

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