STATE OF M.P VS. MADANLAL

In the Supreme Court of India

NAME OF THE CASEState of M.P vs. Madanlal
CITATIONCriminal Appeal No. 231 of 2015
DATE OF THE JUDGEMENTJuly 1, 2015
APPELLANTState of M.P
RESPONDENTMadanlal
BENCH/JUDGEJustice Dipak Misra and Justice Prafulla C. Pant
STATUTES/CONSTITUTION INVOLVEDConstitution of India; Indian Penal Code, 1860; Evidence Act, 1872; Human and Civil Rights; Criminal  Procedure Code, 1973
  IMPORTANT  SECTIONS/ARTICLESIndian Penal Code, 1860, S. 354, S. 376 r/w S. 511, Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 — Ss. 374, 378 & 386    

ABSTRACT

The state of Madhya Pradesh has filed a criminal appeal against a rape suspect. The accused was charged with rape in violation of Section 376(2)(f) of the Indian Penal Code (Indian Penal Code) against a girl of around 7 years of age. The accused was found guilty and convicted by the trial court after the proper process, and he was sentenced to seven years of harsh imprisonment by the trial court following due process.

An appeal was filed in the High Court by the accused, who was dissatisfied with the verdict of the Trial Court. According to the High Court, the offence under Section 376(2) (f) of the Indian Penal Code was transformed into an offence under Section 354 of the IPC, and the sentence was reduced to the time already served. The court also considered an affidavit signed by the victim indicating that she agreed to the marriage proposal.

The State of Madhya Pradesh appealed the decision of the High Court to the Supreme Court of India.

INTRODUCTION

Rape has been stigmatised in society for a very long time. Rape is defined as “the ravishing or violation of a woman” according to the dictionary. Because women are unable to commit rape owing to biological reasons, the rape victim is a female. She is traumatised as a result of the incident, and it is extremely difficult for a woman to recover from such trauma. Rape is a criminal offence in India, and it is punishable by law. There are numerous provisions in various Acts. The term “rape” is defined in the Indian Penal Code, 1860, under section 375[1].

In addition to defining rape, it also specifies the punishment for it. Rape occurs whenever a male penetrates or engages in sexual activity with a woman against her will or without her consent. The term “penetration” refers to the fact that even the slightest contact between the penis and the vagina results in rape; a woman’s unruptured hymen does not rule out the possibility of rape.

There are several exceptions to this rule, such as when a man has sexual relations with his wife who is over the age of 15 years. The rape law of the Indian Penal Code had undergone numerous revisions. In 1983, the law was amended to include S. 376(2), which refers to custodial rape, S. 376(A), which refers to marital rape, and S. 376(B through D), which refers to sexual relations that do not amount to rape.

As a result of the overwhelming amount of work that the Indian judiciary has to deal with, judgments in rape cases are often delivered late. Sometimes it arrives so late that one or both of the parties has already passed away. Consequently, swift trials in rape cases are necessary to ensure that the victim receives justice, as it is correctly stated that “justice delayed is justice denied.”

In the words of retired Special Branch Joint Commissioner Kiran Bedi:

“The law of rape is not just a few sentences. It is a whole book, which has clearly demarcated chapters and cannot be read selectively. We cannot read the preamble and suddenly reach the last chapter and claim to have understood and applied it.”

The Supreme Court has spoken out on numerous occasions about how women struggle to be themselves in an entirely masculine culture, as well as how the court system analyses feminine behaviour from a masculine point of view. In this instance, the Supreme Court did considerably more than just address a single case. It broadened the scope of this case to recognise the burden of survivors of sexual assault, who have on numerous instances been misunderstood and let down by not just society, but strangely, the legal system as well. This ruling has the potential to serve as a catalyst for changing the mindset of the legal system that enforced conditions that were detrimental to the dignity and honour of women.

In Shimbhu v. State of Haryana[2], a three-judge bench observed that rape is a non-compoundable offence and an offence against society, and that it should not be left up to the parties to negotiate and resolve. The fact that the court cannot always be certain that the consent given by the victim in compromising the case is a genuine consent increases the likelihood that the victim has been persuaded to compromise by the criminals or that the pain she has endured over the years has compelled her to opt for a compromise.

Accepting this offer, in fact, will increase the victim’s burden. The accused may use all of his power to pressurise her into agreeing to a settlement. As a result, in the interest of justice and to prevent undue pressure or harassment on the victim, it would not be prudent to accept the agreement reached between the parties in rape cases as a basis for the court to exercise its discretionary power under the provision of Section 376(2)[3] IPC.

FACTS OF THE CASE

The factual matrix, in this case, is that on the 27th of December 2008, the victim, PW1, was walking from her home to Haar when the accused, Madan Lal, approached her and learned that she was looking for her mother who’d already went to graze the goats. The accused informed her that her mother had gone to the river and brought her to the river Parvati, removing her underwear and forcing her to sit on his lap, at which point the prosecutrix yelled.

According to the prosecution’s version of events, he discharged on her private regions as well as on her stomach and then cleansed them both well. When her mother, Ramnali Bai, PW2, arrived on the scene in response to the prosecutrix’s cry, the accused fled to his heels. The prosecutrix told her mother about the entire episode, which resulted in the filing of a FIR by the prosecutrix’s mother against the defendant. As a result of the filed FIR, criminal law was initiated, and the investigating agency interviewed a number of witnesses, seized the respondent- accused clothing,and sent to the forensic laboratory for examination, and finally, after completing the investigation, laid the charge sheet before the relevant court, which in turn referred the case to the Court of Session.

On the basis of the evidence presented in court, the learned trial judge concluded that the prosecution had successfully established the charge against the accused, and he, therefore, found him guilty and sentenced him to prison. A challenge was brought against the said judgment of conviction and order of sentence in the High Court, where it was argued by the learned counsel for the appellant that the Trial Court had failed to appreciate the evidence in the proper context and had failed to consider the material contradictions in the testimony of prosecution witnesses, and that, as a result, the sentence of conviction should be set aside.

Furthermore, the court took note of a substituting filing, which stated that the parties had reached a settlement and that a petition for leave to compromise had been submitted to the Trail Court. As a result, the court determined that the offence was not compoundable and reduced the sentence to the time already served, which was slightly more than one year, by converting the offence under Section 376(2)(f) of the IPC to Section 354 of the IPC.

In an appeal in the Supreme Court made by the State of Madhya Pradesh, challenges the legal acceptability of the judgement and order passed by the learned Single Judge of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh in Madanlal v. State of Madhya Pradesh[4] whereby he has set aside the conviction under Section 376(2)(f) read with Section 511 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the sentence imposed on that score, namely, rigorous imprisonment of five years by the learned Sessions Judge, Guna in ST No. 134/2009.

ISSUE RAISED BEFORE THE COURT

  • Legal acceptability of the judgment and order passed by the learned Single Judge of the High Court of M.P. in Criminal Appeal No. 808 of 2009?
  • Does the HC has kept in mind the jurisdiction of the appellate court and dislodged the conviction and converted the conviction to another?
  • Can conception of compromise really be thought of in case of rape or attempt of rape?

ARGUMENTS

ARGUMENTS FROM THE APPELLANT SIDE

  • Learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that the High Court did not consider the jurisdiction of the appellate court when it dismissed the conviction and converted Section 376(2)(f) to a conviction under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code in an exceedingly laconic manner, and as a result, the judgement should be set aside.
  • Rape is a non-compoundable offence that is considered a crime against society. It is not a subject that should be left to the parties to negotiate and settle on their own terms. The fact that the court cannot always be certain that the consent given by the victim in compromising the case is a genuine consent increases the likelihood that the victim has been persuaded to compromise by the criminals or that the trauma she has endured over the years has pushed her to do so. It is actually the case that embracing this suggestion will place more strain on the sufferer. The accused may use all of his power to pressurise her into accepting a plea bargain.
  • Learned counsel for the petitioner further contends that the appellate court has a legal obligation to reappreciate the evidence in the correct context and then come to an appropriate conclusion and that because this has not been done, the impugned judgement does not recommend acceptance of the evidence. He has also expressed severe concerns about the severity of the sentence given by the High Court.

ARGUMENTS FROM THE RESPONDENT SIDE

  • Ms. Asha Jain Madan, learned counsel representing the respondent, submitted that, after taking into consideration all of the evidence on record, the learned Single Judge has come to the conclusion that the prosecution has failed to prove the offence under Section 376(2)(f) read with Section 511 IPC, and that, as a result, the impugned judgement is absolutely impeachable.
  • Learned counsel representing the respondent argued with utmost diligence that because the prosecutrix was a seven-year-old girl and the elements of the crime had not been established, the High Court’s conversion of the offence to one punishable under Section 354 IPC could not be faulted under any circumstances. She argues that if the High Court’s decision is determined to be reasonable, the imposition of a sentence under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code cannot be considered perverse.
  • There was an alternate submission of affidavit with reference to the compromise and marriage proposal between the parties in this case, i.e., the accused and the victim, and the affidavit was officially signed by the victim in this case.

Judgment

The Hon’ble Court noted that the trial court examined the evidence and came to the opinion that the prosecution had been successful in bringing the charge to a successful conclusion on the basis of reliable evidence. The High Court took note of the submissions made by the learned counsel for the appellant in that case to the effect that the trial court had failed to appreciate the evidence in proper perspective and had completely ignored the material contradictions in the testimony of the prosecution witnesses, and then referred to the decisions in Ashok @ Pappu v. State of Madhya Pradesh[5], Phulki @ Santosh @ Makhan v. State of Madhya Pradesh[6], and Jeevan v. State of Madhya Pradesh[7].

In the current case, the learned Single Judge has made no mention of any of the evidence that was presented throughout the trial. The Hon’ble Court further stated that we have exactly recreated the complete analysis performed by our erudite Single Judge. Prior to that, he has clearly referred to the various authorities who have their own set of facts. In fact, none of the aforementioned utterances establishes a legal proposition. As may be seen, the learned Single Judge in his judgement has simply noted that the prosecution has interviewed a large number of witnesses and filed nine papers.

The Hon’ble Court further informed that the aforementioned method does not meet the requirements for the exercise of appellate authority in this case. As a result of the foregoing, we are inclined to set aside the verdict of the High Court and remand the matter to it for further consideration. As far as we can tell, the learned Single Judge has been swayed by the settlement reached between the accused and the victim’s parents, despite the fact that the victim was a juvenile at the time of the incident. The abovementioned application had been dismissed by the learned trial Judge on the grounds that the offence was not compoundable at the time.

The aforementioned point of view was expressed by the Hon’ble Court after reading a passage from Shimbhu and Another v. State of Haryana[8] wherein, a three-Judge Bench has ruled thus: in relation to the imposition of a sentence. We would like to clarify unequivocally that in the instance of rape or attempted rape, the concept of compromise can under no circumstances be entertained. These are crimes against a woman’s own body, which she considers to be her temple. These are offences that choke the breath of life and tarnish one’s reputation. The importance of reputation in one’s life cannot be overstated, as it is the most valuable asset a person can own. No one would ever allow it to be put out of its misery. The “purest treasure” is lost when a human frame gets tainted. The dignity of a woman is a component of her non-perishable and eternal self, and no one should ever consider portraying it in clay. There can’t be a compromise or a settlement because it would be against her honor, which is what matters the most. It is regarded as sacred.

The Hon’ble Court further submitted the matter to the High Court for a reconsideration of the evidence and a new ruling, and we have therefore made no reference to the testimony of any of the witnesses. As a result of this remand, the order of the High Court is nullified, and because the respondent was in jail at the time of the pronouncement of the judgement by the trial Court, he shall be brought into custody immediately by the appropriate Superintendent of Police, and the appeal before the High Court will be heard anew. A copy of the verdict should be provided to the Gwalior branch of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh.

Conclusion

Rape is a non-compoundable offence that is considered a crime against society. It is not a problem that should be left to the parties to negotiate and resolve. The present case not only brought to light the absurdity of society, but also emphasized the plight of the victims who fell victim to horrific judgements and were further victimised by their marriage to the rapist.

If a rapist offers to marry his victim, he is taking an extra-legal step that is not codified elsewhere in the law. Dilution or outright waiver of punishment is the result. This view is popular because stigmatization has become widespread in society, and even the victims believe it. There is an ancient narrative about rapists being allowed to get away with their crimes provided they marry the victims, and this story has more to do with gender issues than it does with religious beliefs.

And the Court has correctly concluded that a compromise or settlement cannot be reached because it would be detrimental to her honour, which is the most important thing. This would herald the beginning of a new era in the administration of criminal justice for crimes against women. By doing so, it will be impossible for the perpetrator of the crime to escape criminal accountability by marrying the victim. And will ensure that anyone who commits such a crime is held accountable.

Furthermore, the decision of the Court to set aside the judgment of the HC and remand the matter to it for suitable adjudication would assist us in ensuring that justice is served to the prosecutrix. This will ensure that the HC is exercising its appellate jurisdiction in the proper manner and that the evidence is seen from the appropriate viewpoint.


[1] See The Indian Penal Code, 1860

[2] MANU/SC/0871/2013

[3] See The Indian Penal Code, 1860, §376

[4] Criminal Appeal No. 808 of 2009

[5] 2005 Cr.L.J. (M.P.) 471

[6] 2006 Cr.L.J. (M.P.) 157

[7] 2008 Cr.L.J. (M.P.) 1498

[8] See. Shimbhu and Anr. v. State of Haryana MANU/SC/0871/2013.

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