HC sees ‘promiscuity, voyeurism’ in Sonepat rape victim’s allegations, grants bail to accused

Updated on Sep 22, 2017 02:45 PM IST
The accused were convicted by a Sonepat court on March 24, 2017. Hardik and Karan were sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for gangrape and other criminal offences, while Vikas was sentenced to seven years in jail for rape and other offences.
The division bench ordered their psychiatric treatment at the All India institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, and sought a progress report from their parents in six months.(HT File)
The division bench ordered their psychiatric treatment at the All India institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, and sought a progress report from their parents in six months.(HT File)
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By

The Punjab and Haryana high court has suspended the sentence of three former law students of a private university in Haryana, who were convicted of gangrape and blackmail, and observed that the victim’s statement offered “an alternate conclusion of misadventure stemming from a promiscuous attitude and a voyeuristic mind.”

The division bench of justice Mahesh Grover and justice Raj Shekhar Attri ordered a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the woman to be borne equally by the three convicts. It also ordered their psychiatric treatment at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi and sought a progress report from their parents in six months.

The 18-year-old student of Sonepat’s OP Jindal Global University lodged a complaint and the police registered a case in April 2015. She alleged her former friend Hardik Sikri was blackmailing her with some of her nude photos and forced her to establish sexual relationships with him and two of his friends, Vikas Garg and Karan Chhabra, all students of the same university.

The offences were committed on the campus.

The court also took note of the fact that the girl admitted a sex toy was suggested by Hardik and her “acceptance” of the same.

The three were sentenced on May 24 by a Sonepat trial court – main accused Sikri and Chhabra for 20 years each for gang-raping and blackmailing the junior management student for about two years. Garg was handed a seven-year jail term for rape and other offences, including criminal conspiracy and transmitting objectionable material.

All the three challenged the trial court’s order and sought bail pleas as well.

In its judgment delivered on September 13, the court dealt with their bail pleas only.

‘No gut-wrenching violence’

While granting bail to the three men, the judges, however, seem to suggest the issue was not of sexual violence but of a generation that is “unable to comprehend the worth of a relationship based on respect and understanding”.

“Testimony of the victim does offer an alternate story of casual relationship with her friends, acquaintances, adventurism and experimentation in sexual encounters and these factors would, therefore, offer compelling reasons to consider the prayer for suspension of sentence favourably, particularly when the accused themselves are young and the narrative does not throw up gut-wrenching violence, that normally precedes or accompanies such incidents,” the court stated.

The judges further observed they were conscious of the fact that her allegations of being threatened and blackmailed lent “sufficient diabolism” to the offence but a careful examination of her statement again offered “an alternate conclusion of misadventure stemming from a promiscuous attitude and a voyeuristic mind.”

The judges further observed that it is essential for them to balance the concerns of the victim, demands of the society and law, and the element of reformatory and rehabilitative justice.

The court also took note of the fact that the girl admitted a sex toy was suggested by Sikri and her “acceptance” of the same. It noted that after the offences were committed, the girl visited her family several times in Delhi but made no attempt to confide in her parents.

It also noted the fact that condoms were found from her hostel room after it was searched and she admitted to taking drugs and alcohol. 

‘Abysmal situation’

The court observed the case was a “tragedy of sorts”, driving four young lives and an equal number of families into an “abyss” while considering the plea for suspension of their sentence.

“There is indeed no doubt that few allegations of the victim regarding blackmail, if correct, need the strongest condemnation with equal forceful retribution that the law mandates and this becomes the testing ground for us to balance these divergent aspects. What is equally worrisome is how to retrieve the youth who have dragged themselves and their families into an abysmal situation, be it the victim or the perpetrators,” the bench said while ordering counselling of the convicts.

The judges further observed that it is essential for them to balance the concerns of the victim, demands of the society and law, and the element of reformatory and rehabilitative justice.

“It would be a travesty if these young minds are confined to jail for an inordinately long period, which would deprive them of their education, opportunity to redeem themselves and be a part of the society as normal beings. Long incarceration at this stage when the appeal is not likely to mature for some time is likely to result in an irreparable damage,” the court said while suspending the sentence of all the three.

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