'Mediated settlement' with rapist? Madras HC's suggestion evokes outrage
Chennai: Madras High Court's decision to grant an opportunity to a rape convict to ‘settle' the matter by mediation has generated a huge outrage across the country.
The man was found guilty of raping a minor and was sentenced to seven years in jail and fined Rs 2 lakh.
The victim, an orphan, was raped when she was only 15-years-old. She delivered a baby the next year.
Justice P Devadass, holding that alternative dispute resolution such as mediation is now being used in criminal cases said "In fact, even in Islam, Hinduism and Christianity there are instances of solving the disputes in a non- belligerent manner. The result of it is very good because there is no victor, no vanquished."
Several prominent personalities including jurists and women's rights activists have questioned the judgement as to how the choice of a compromise could be given to an offender.
“What is before the high court is an appeal by the offender, and there is no request from either the girl or the offender for a compromise," said a senior jurist.
"An alternative dispute resolution mechanism cannot be stretched to this extent," he added.
“Rape is a sexual offence and a non-negotiable offence and one cannot have any mediation except in the situation where the woman alleges breach of promise to marry. Rape is a non-compoundable offence and there has to be a sentence.” The Hindu quoted noted advocate Geetha Ramaseshan as saying.
The victim has also rejected the decision and said that she is not ready to speak to her rapist and does not want to marry him.
Speaking to a private TV channel, she said, “I am not ready to talk or get married to him. Why are they asking me to talk to him after seven years?”
Granting interim bail to the accused Mohan, the judge in his order had said he has already referred a similar matter in February for mediation which has yielded a good result and nearing happy resolution.
"The victim-girl has become mother of a child. But as on date, she is nobody's wife. So, she is an unwed mother. Now there is a big question mark looming large before the girl as well as her child, who is completely innocent," the judge said.
"Generally, in this type of cases, the girl concerned is stated to be a victim, but really speaking the child born out of such a physical contact is also a victim. The child is a victim of circumstances. She had born to suffer a social stigma for no fault of hers. It is a great tragedy," he added.
In July 2002, a mahila court in Cuddalore district acquitted two others in the case but found Mohan guilty of rape. Besides Rs 2 lakh fine, he was sentenced to undergo imprisonment for seven years.
Mohan challenged his conviction in the case.
Justice Devadas referred the matter to the mediation centre attached to the high court and said Rs 1 lakh should be deposited as fine by Mohan and it should be kept in Indian Bank, Thittakudi, Cuddalore District as a fixed deposit in the girl's name and granted interim bail enabling Mohan to attend the mediation.
The judge also directed the advocates appearing on both sides to assist the mediators in this case.