Family, police pressure: Why most rape victims turn hostile during trial

  • Avantika Mehta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 28, 2016 17:11 IST
Acquittals in rape cases in Delhi between January 2014 and March 2015 was almost 50% because the victims turned hostile during trial. (Illustration: Aastha Mittal)

Of 663 rape cases decided between January 2014 and March 2015 by Delhi courts, 357 resulted in acquittals because the victims turned hostile during trial. At least 71 rape complainants deposed that they had filed false cases under pressure from their family while 45 said the police forced them to file the FIR. The courts questioned neither the complainants nor the police or the families.

More than half of the 663 complainants turned hostile and 44.2% of them said the accused had threatened them prior to the filing of the FIR. Pressure could have been applied on them even after they had registered a case. 

Retired Delhi High Court judge, RS Sodhi points a finger at the courts. “Any woman says that I have filed a rape case under police pressure then the policeman should face consequences. So for the court to not be vigilant and take action is actually a default on the judicial system.” 

Part I of Rape and the City: In Delhi, a rape accused has 83% chance of acquittal

(Graphic: Aastha Mittal and Hitesh Mathur)

Hindustan Times’ data analysis reveals that the courts neither took action against the police nor did they question families of those that alleged that they filed false complaints under pressure.

HT spoke to a rape complainant who said she’d filed the case after years of abuse but had to retract her testimony before the court under family pressure. “My family told me to leave the case. The accused was close to my father and he knew I would listen to him.” the woman said. 

HT’s analysis also showed that 64 women had eloped with their lovers and their parents had filed criminal cases. At least 18 women told courts they had married the rape accused and retracted their testimony before the magistrate. 

Lawyers say these cases raise serious questions about the workings of the justice system.

“If they (the complainants) are saying, they have compromised then that’s an even bigger issue to think about. Why have we not worked on a better victim protection policy? How is the accused getting access to the victim’s family to be able to compromise?” asks a lawyer who wished to stay anonymous.

Watch | A rape survivor recounts her struggle to seek justice:

These judgments reveal the kind of pressure that is brought to bear on the victim. In one case, a girl who accused her father-in-law of rape actually turned around and told the court during the trial that “the lights were turned off and so she had mistaken her husband for her father-in-law.”

“When the evidence or reasons are incredible then obviously the court has to question and not accept the reasons given by the complainant,” says senior advocate Indira Jaising. 

Another senior lawyer Vrinda Grover points out that the complainant was probably forced to bring in her husband because marital rape is not an offence under the Indian Penal Code.

“Pressure isn’t necessarily put through threat – it can be through family, through society, through people saying ‘maaf kardo.’ Now if that is the case, then the court has to be much more proactive and see what can be done,” says Grover. 

The data analysis also showed that 39 complainants had filed cases out of anger, spite and malice. Six women had also used the case to extort money.

Jaisingh sums it up saying, “The very process of seeking justice is frustrating.” 

Watch | Senior advocate Indira Jaising analyses the reasons why rape victims turn hostile

(District courts data compiled by interns Srishti Juneja, Vidushi Gupta, Tanuj Dayal. Data analysis by Avantika Mehta) 

Tomorrow: Do raped minors get justice?

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