Courts have increasingly come to equate loss of modesty with monetary compensation even as the culprit walks free.
They say money can buy most things in life. And if you’ve got enough of it, it can even fund your freedom. From judicial custody, that is.
Incarceration and finishing jail terms are for the economically challenged, those who can, may as well cough up the moolah and get away with it.
What’s more, this len den seems to have received legal sanction too, especially after recent judgements in cases of sexual harassment and rape.
Analyse this. Supercop KPS Gill, in the dock for sexual harassment of Rupen Deol Bajaj, is let off with a fine of Rs 2 lakh by the Supreme Court.
Following suit, Mumbai sessions judge Laxmi Rao, passes a couple of judgments in August (in quick succession) on, ahem.."humanitarian"grounds.
The lady, lets off Suresh Vanse, accused of raping a minor thirteen years ago, with a token imprisonment of just one day and Rs 50,000 as monetary compensation for the victim. Just a week before that, she had allowed another accused to pay Rs 10,000 to the victim with a reduced sentence of three years (and that on parole).
But the buck, literally so, doesn’t stop there. The king will find several loyalists, some more eager than him.
Ergo, the rumours of a Bollywood diva, sexually harassed by the senior executive of a private company, being paid a gigantic amount to hush up the issue.
For those who must know, the minimum penalty for rape happens to be seven years. That this clause has been relegated to the status of being just that, a clause, seems to escape the attention of most humanists. What about some humanity, if indeed that’s what it’s about, for the victim pray? Brinda Karat, vice president AIDWA, seems to have an answer. "We feel that some punitive measures in the form of monetary relief for the victim should be given but this must not be confused with the actual punishment for the culprit. The two are separate issues. Trying to reduce the sentence or letting off the culprit with just the payment of the compensation is totally wrong.
We strongly oppose that."Ironically though, these judgments seem to have done just that. Money equals loss of modesty, does it? Reasons activist Teesta Setalvad, "There’s much to be said and desired from our legal system, police and judges from the way they look at sexual violence against women.
At the same time, there seems to be a general charity mode that everyone seems to have got into, whether it is in the case of an accident or that of rape, where the judiciary thinks that monetary compensation is adequate for the loss, whether of life or modesty. How can you compensate that?"Indeed.
Agrees lawyer Majeed Memon, "The honour of a female cannot be evaluated in terms of money except in certain cases where the victim might feel recompensed monetarily.
But it does not serve the purpose in cases such as these. Once the accused has been found guilty, he must be punished in accordance with the law, since even in cases where compensation is provided, at most times, it is too meagre a sum and does not even serve to rehabilitate the victim.
I disagree with this trend of token payment."But we wonder how long it will take before the legal system falls in line with this.
By Smita Khanna, September 9, 2005, ASG