A drunk woman’s ‘Yes’ is not an excuse for rape: Bombay HC

Rapes in India

“In the case of rape, intoxication cannot be an excuse. If a girl is intoxicated, it means mentally she is not capable to give a free and conscious consent” these are the words of Justice Mridula Bhatkar of the Bombay High Court. Justice Bhatkar was hearing the bail applications filed by a Pune resident under allegations of committing gang rape with the help of two of his other friends. The petitioner argued that the complainant, his 24 year old co worker had consumed four servings of a cocktail after which he took her to her friend’s flat. On the other hand the woman denied consuming alcohol knowingly and stressed that the accused had spiked her drinks.


“At this stage, a simple question poses in the mind why boy did not take her to her house when she could not walk and didn’t have orientation instead of taking her to the flat of his friend” said Justice Bhatkar, questioning the intentions of the accused.  ‘If a woman is under intoxication/influence of liquor or any drug, then even though she gives consent, it is not a consent’ she added.

The observation made by the Bombay High Court can serve as an important milestone to not only make people aware of the importance but also the expansiveness of the term consent. But the quest to prevent rapes and sexual exploitation mustn’t stop at just the understanding of consent for the instances of rape and the unaccountability rapists hold for the violence they inflict is still present.

Even in today’s day and age, the case is not the first one where a woman’s consumption of alcohol has been used to question her character and wretchedly to even manufacture consent.  An important example is the 2015 sexual assault case committed by Brock Turner, who was then a Stanford University student, a swimmer with the hopes of competing in Olympics. Turner was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault, facing a maximum of 14 years in state prison. And yet the sentence was merely six months in county jail and probation, the judge expressed that a longer sentence would have a “severe impact” on his swimming career. Throughout the trail, his attorneys had chosen to argue that the victim had eagerly consented and her drunk state was used by them to let the offender instead fill the blanks.

The impact statement of the survivor in the Stanford case describes the plight of women who face such arguments. “I was not only told that I was assaulted, I was told that because I couldn’t remember, I technically could not prove it was unwanted. And that distorted me, damaged me, almost broke me. It is the saddest type of confusion to be told I was assaulted and nearly raped, blatantly out in the open, but we don’t know if it counts as assault yet. I had to fight for an entire year to make it clear that there was something wrong with this situation.”

Realities like these shed light on the situation of women in the so called modern world, but the Bombay High Court judgement is a reassuring step towards ensuring that justice is on the side of the affected and not the offenders.