SC questions complainants in rape case in open court

In a departure from norms, the Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned in open court two women alleging sexual assault by persons acting at the behest of an industrialist and former MP.

Section 327 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code says that inquiry or trial in sexual harassment and rape cases “shall be conducted in camera” to protect the right to privacy of the victim.

However, a Bench of Justices T.S. Thakur and A.K. Goel asked questions about the antecedents of the two women in full view of lawyers and the media in the courtroom.

The queries included why they took a lift from strangers prior to the alleged incident in 2013, who advised them to approach the Supreme Court and whether their families were aware of the fact that they were in Delhi. One of the women had been a nurse in a government hospital in Raipur district of Chhattisgarh.

Appearing for the industrialist, Sidharth Luthra, senior lawyer, urged the court not to order an investigation without clearing the air on the antecedents of the women, the nature of their allegations and the source of funding.

At the end, unconvinced by the responses from the women, the court refused to intervene in the case, suggesting instead that M.L. Sharma, counsel for the two women, raise the issue before the High Court or even file a private complaint before a magistrate court.

“The judiciary is capable of doing it [granting protection]. After all, we are all part of society. But we are not interfering in the matter,” Justice Thakur observed orally.

The hearing concluded with the Bench allowing Mr. Sharma to withdraw the case.

Unconvinced by the women's responses, the court refused to intervene in the case

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