The Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court, while upholding the conviction of a man accused of raping his one-year-old granddaughter, expressed its concern over the little progress the country has made in combating crimes against women, despite the fact that it’s been over a decade since the heinous Nirbhaya case.
A two-judge bench of Justices Sanjay Dhar and Rajesh Sekhri said that women have the right to life, liberty, respect, and equality and urged courts to be more cautious in conducting rape trial proceedings considering the increasing rate of crimes against women.
Jammu HC On Increasing Crimes Against Women
The court was addressing a case that revolved around the brutal rape of a minor child by her own maternal grandfather and his conviction by a trial court under Section 376(2)(f) of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), 1989.
The accused contested his conviction on multiple grounds and questioned the evidence against him. His counsel argued that the trial court has failed to properly look into the evidence, which he "claimed" to have contradictions and discrepancies.
Further, he argued for the lack of proof to establish the motive behind the crime, adding that the prosecution had failed to establish an attempt of penetration. He added that the key witnesses were close relatives, which would make them biased and interested witnesses.
The court systematically addressed each contention and reaffirmed the conviction. Further, it highlighted the significance of the survivor’s statement and medical evidence in determining the truth of the crime.
Deliberating the role of medical evidence in sexual crimes, the court emphasised that rape cannot be diagnosed by a medical expert who can only certify recent sexual activity. Further, it stressed that even an attempt of penetration with or without ejaculation of semen is sufficient to constitute rape. The court cited observations from Modi’s Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology to reinforce the statement.
Addressing the issue of failure to establish a motive and to examine certain witnesses, the court noted that the motive, although important, loses importance where there is direct, trustworthy evidence of the crime. It added that the absence of a clear motive wouldn’t weaken the case in this instance. Considering all the facts, the bench didn’t find any illegality in the trial court’s conviction and upheld the same by dismissing the accused’s plea.
Why Is Women's Safety Still An Alarming Concern
The National Commission of Women shared in 2022 that it received almost 31,000 complaints of crimes against women. Over a decade has passed since the gruesome Nirbhaya case that shook the entire nation. If anything had changed, the release of convicts in the Bilkis Bano case, Shraddha Walkar or Manipur violence (for instance) wouldn't have happened.
Reinstating the statement, the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court's observation that nothing has improved in the country and women’s safety still remains a huge concern is heartbreaking. Literally everybody, from a woman’s partner to a random stranger, poses a threat to their safety. Women are raped by their partner, killed by their parents, assaulted by their teacher, and harassed by strangers. Are women truly safe around anyone at all?
Women are attacked both inside their homes and outside on the street in broad daylight, while the public witnesses crimes as silent bystanders. Is there any place where women are truly safe?
In many news stories of crimes against women that we come across every day, the audacity, entitlement, and lack of remorse exhibited by perpetrators leads one to believe that it’s internalised patriarchy that capacitates them to commit such crimes. Unfortunately, even today, male entitlement starts right at home, which reiterates the belief that men are supreme beings who can dominate and control women.
What starts as harassment today will turn into rape or murder tomorrow. No crime against women is lesser than the other. So, there’s a real and desperate need for the country to implement stricter laws and take swifter actions that will instil fear in perpetrators.
Views expressed by the author are their own
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