Amid strong criticism from rights activists and a recent Supreme Court judgment which observed that a liberal approach in rape cases was nothing short of a “spectacular error,” the Madras High Court has recalled its controversial order that suggested mediation between a rape survivor and the convict.
Justice P. Devadass recalled his June 10 order in which he had favoured such mediation, “in view of the Supreme Court order” of July 1, and cancelled the interim bail granted to the convict.
The judge directed him to surrender before a local court in Cuddalore by Monday. While the Officer-in-Charge of Mediation Centre was directed to stop the parties from attending the mediation, the Registrar (Judicial) was to ensure compliance with the order.
If the convict did not surrender on July 13 as directed, “the trial court shall issue warrant to secure the petitioner/accused and commit him to Central Prison, Cuddalore,” the judge said and further posted the case for hearing after two weeks.
The Supreme Court in a judgement delivered on July 1 held that “dignity of a woman is a part of her non-perishable and immortal self” and ruled that courts should not fall for the subterfuge of a rapist to corner the traumatised victim into a compromise, or even worse, enter into wedlock with him.
After Justice Devadass passed the order referring a rape case to mediation by granting interim bail to the convict to hold talks with the rape survivor, The Hindu published a series of reports on the theme that it was “Justice Denied”.
They highlighted the severe criticism by civil society and the legal fraternity among others.
Refusing to accept the High Court’s direction for mediation, the rape survivor had questioned how she could hold talks with the rape convict, who denied knowing her till he was confronted with a DNA test which proved that he was the father of the survivor’s seven-year old daughter.
The Madras High Court’s order recalling its earlier order referring a rape case to mediation has come in for praise by activists and noted lawyers.
“It is a welcome order. This case has to be adjudicated on its own merit,” noted lawyer Geeta Ramaseshan. She, along with other noted lawyers, had given a representation to the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court seeking to recall the order passed by the single judge.
Holding that there was a Supreme Court order earlier also on courts dealing with rape cases, retired Justice K. Chandru said, “There is no point in referring to the Supreme Court now. He could have referred to the Supreme Court judgments made two years back. Also, this order doesn’t make much of a difference because the girl has already decided not to come for mediation.”
Pointing out that the judge cannot recall his order in a criminal case, Mr. Chandru said, “He cannot recall his order, because in criminal law, there is no power of review of the judge, except in cases of arithmetic or typing errors.”
Welcoming the order, national general secretary of People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) V. Suresh said, “It is the restoration of basic principles of rape jurisprudence.”
“Gender violence in general is a consequence of inequalities in gender, power, economy and societal relations. Invariably, as a vulnerable category, women become victims in gender crimes,” Mr. Suresh said.