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Supreme Court Issues Guidelines for Dealing with Sexual Crimes [READ JUDGMENT]

The patriarchal and stereotypical notions about women should be avoided while dealing with sexual crimes.

By: Sanidhya Sharma, O.P. Jindal Global University.

The Supreme Court on this Thursday set aside a judgment belonging to the Madhya Pradesh High Court wherein it had inquired a man, who was accused of sexual assault, to get a “rakhi” tied on his wrist by the victim as a necessary requirement for condition of getting bail. The bench comprised if Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice AM Khanwilkar who observed, “Using rakhi tying as a condition for bail, transforms a molester into a brother, by a judicial mandate. This is wholly unacceptable and has the effect of diluting and eroding the offence of sexual harassment. The act perpetrated on the survivor constitutes an offence in law and is not a minor transgression that can be remedied by way of an apology, rendering community service, tying a rakhi or presenting a gift to the survivor, or even promising to marry her, as the case maybe. The law criminalizes outraging the modesty of a woman.”

This judgment comes after when the Supreme Court advocate Aparna Bhat and eight other women who had challenged the July 2020 order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court as reported by the Bar and Bench. The court had stated and directed that the man who is accused of having offended the modesty of a woman to present himself before the plaintiff so that she may tie a “rakhi” on his wrist to be eligible to get bail. While they were setting aside the order, Justices AM Khanwilkar and Ravindra Bhat issued seven important directions that is to be followed strictly by the lower courts while dealing with the petitions regarding bail in matters relating to the crimes against women. The Court also stated that the use of reasoning or language which diminishes or minimalize the offence, which also tends to underestimate the survivor, shall be avoided under all the circumstances provided. 

The judgment not only showed listed relevant instructions but also illustrated certain conduct and actions that were termed as irrelevant for adjudication- to say that the survivor had in the past consented to such or similar to these, acts or that she behaved shamelessly; or by her acts or clothing, aggravated the suspected action of the accused; that she behaved in a manner unbecoming of chaste or “Indian” women, or that she had called upon the situation by her behavior, etc.” The Court also stated that such behavior and attitudes should never enter the judicial verdicts or orders or it should not be considered relevant while making a judicial decision. They cannot be the only reasons for granting bail or other such reliefs.

In Aparna’s plea before the Supreme Court, she had struggled that, such judgments form the High Courts would end up underestimating such heinous offence that happened and also that there is a strong likelihood and a chance that such observations and directions may lead in normalizing what is essentially a crime and has been recognized to be so by the law. This order was passed by the Justice Rohit Arya who is in Madhya Pradesh High Court, who is responsible of releasing a man, suspected of offending the modesty of a woman on bail provided that he visits the residence of the plaintiff and requests her to tie the Rakhi band to him on his wrist for the sake of protection.

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