New Delhi: Rape is a reprehensible act and every perpetrator of the crime should be punished severely and strictly but only after the accused's guilt has been proved beyond doubt, the Supreme Court has said as it set aside the conviction of a man for rape.
"Rape is indeed a reprehensible act and every perpetrator should be punished expeditiously, severally and strictly. However, this is only possible when guilt has been proved beyond reasonable doubt," said a bench of Justice K.S.Radhakrishnan and Justice Vikramajit Sen in their recent judgment.
The court said while setting aside the Kerala High Court verdict holding Vinod guilty of rape and sentencing him to four years in jail. The high court, while holding Vinod guilty, had however reduced his jail term from seven years as he was sentenced to by the Thiruvananthapuram additional district and sessions judge.
Vinod, who was already married and had two children, got into a relationship with the college-going girl. She eloped with Vinod on April 19, 2000 after finishing her examination earlier in the day. Thereafter, both travelled to different places before her uncle Abdul Rasheed chanced upon then in a market.
While Vinod claimed that he had told her about being already married and having children, the girl said that she was unaware of Vinod's marital status otherwise she would not have consummated their marriage which they had entered into by way of an agreement.
Setting aside the conviction of Vinod, the apex court noted that the high court had "aptly observed" that what began as a telephonic friendship strengthened into close acquaintance between Vinod and the girl which later blossomed into love, eventually leading them to elope".
Yet despite arriving at this conclusion the high court termed her a victim,"which seems to us to be an incongruous factual finding leading to a misconception and consequently a misapplication of the law".
"In our deduction there was no seduction; just two persons fatally in love, their youth blinding them to the futility of their relationship," said the apex court.
"Rape is indeed a reprehensible act and every perpetrator should be punished expeditiously, severally and strictly. However, this is only possible when guilt has been proved beyond reasonable doubt," the court said.
The apex court said it had no doubt that the girl was aware that "the appellant (Vinod) was already married but, possibly because a polygamous relationship was not anathema to her because of the faith which she adheres to, the prosecutrix was willing to start a home with the appellant".
However, it noted that Vinod "is not an innocent man inasmuch as he had willy-nilly entered into a relationship with the prosecutrix, in violation of his matrimonial vows and his paternal duties and responsibilities".
"If he has suffered incarceration for an offence for which he is not culpable, he should realise that retribution in another form has duly visited him."
"It can only be hoped that his wife Chitralekha will find in herself the fortitude to forgive so that their family may be united again and may rediscover happiness, as avowedly the prosecutrix has found."