APARNA BHAT VS. STATE OF MADHYA PRADESH
CITATION: 2021 SCC OnLine SC 230
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.: 329/2021
SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CRL.) NO.: 2531 of 2021 arising out of
SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CRL.) DIARY NO.: 20318 of 20201
COURT: The Supreme Court of India
BENCH: JusticeAM Khanwilkar and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat
JUDGEMENT DATED: March 18, 2021
Aparna Bhat Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh is a recent landmark case popularly known as the ‘rakhi case’. This case was filed in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India by the petitioners against the judgement by Madhya Pradesh High Court in the case of Vikram Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh. This is one of the most important cases in issues related to women.
● On 20.04.2020, the accused Vikram, who is also a neighbour of the victim Sarda Bai, allegedly entered her house and sexually harassed her. The victim filed an FIR against the accused under sections 323, 354A, 452 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code.
● On the complaint of the victim, a charge sheet was issued after completion of all the inquiry and the accused was convicted under section 354 of the Indian Penal Code. The accused approaches the Madhya Pradesh High Court for anticipatory bail under section 438 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
● The High Court granted bail to the accused with condition that the accused along with his wife would visit the house of the victim on August 3, 2020 i.e. the day of Raksha Bandhan and request her to tie a rakhi on his hands. The accused should perform all the rituals of Raksha Bandhan and give Rs. 11,000/- to the victim as a sign of gift by a brother to a sister on raksha bandhan and submit the photography of all the rituals performed in the court.
● Advocate Aparna Bhat along with eight other advocates filed an appeal in the Hon’ble Supreme Court against the verdict of Madhya Pradesh High Court which ordered the accused of sexual assault to visit the house of victim and perform the rituals of Raksha Bandhan.
● Can a compromise be made between the accused and victim of sexual offence case through judicial order or mandate?
● What will be the effect of such orders on society and the justice system of the nation?
● Can the accused be permitted to meet the victim or her family?
● Do such mandates or orders constitute trial in a biased and unfair manner?
●What should be the guidelines that courts should follow while granting bail or anticipatory bail to an accused?
- ARGUMENTS OF THE PETITIONERS:
The petitioners urged that the decision of the Madhya Pradesh High Court should be set aside. They cited sections 437(3)(c) and 438(2)(iv) of the Criminal Procedure Code which however permits courts to impose whatever conditions they find suitable in the interest of the public but at the same time keeping in mind the restrictions; the conditions must be consistent with the other provisions.
The appellant in their arguments cited the case of State of Madhya Pradesh Vs. Madanlal, stating that in cases of sexual offences, the idea of any compromise especially marriage between the accused and victim or any kind of mediation through judicial mandate or order should not deemed to be a judicial remedy as it would be against the honour and dignity of the victim and would be unfair towards her.
In Ramphal vs. State of Haryana, the court observed that compromise is irrelevant in cases of sexual offences. Compromises in such cases dilutes the offence and is unfair towards the victim and creates injustice in the society.
The Appellant further urged that no such judgement or order should be passed by the courts which would cause unfair or partial conduct of trial or in any way compromise with the dignity or honour of the victim .
- ARGUMENTS OF THE RESPONDENTS:
The respondents argued that the court had passed order under sections 437(2) and 438 of the Criminal Procedure Code. They cited a number of court rulings which have mandated specific criteria for granting bail.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India set aside the judgement passed by Madhya Pradesh High Court for granting bail to a sexual harassment accused on a stereotypical and patriarchal condition that the accused along with his wife visit the victim, Sarda Bai’s house during the Raksha Bandhan festival and request her to tie rakhi on his wrist and promise to protect her in future to the best of his ability and give her Rs. 11,000/- and sweets as a sign of gift from a brother to a sister.
The apex court was approved that such an act would dilute the offence of the accused of such an heinous crime and it would convert the molester into a brother.
Justice Bhat opined that “sexual offence is a crime and 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…”
The survivors approaches the courts for impartial and fair approach in every stage of the criminal proceeding. The rulings or judgments not only decides for the particular case but also gest communicated the idea to the public at large. Therefore the courts should restrain themselves from passing such judgement that shows the stereotypes or patriarchal notions about women.
All the High Courts and trial courts were directed to refrain from mandating conditions in sexual offences cases that would belittle the suffering of the survivors and affect their dignity.
The Solicitor General also suggested that the Supreme Court should frame guidelines for all the High Courts and trial courts for passing bail or anticipatory bail orders.
Pertaining to this the Supreme Court issues some guidelines to be followed by all the courts for dealing with sexual offences. Some of those are listed below:
● Bail order should not contain any condition that mandate or permit any kind of contact between the accused and victim or indulge the complainant in any potential threat/ harassment.
● When any situation occurs that compels the court to believe that there might be a potential threat or harassment then the court shall provide protection after due process.
● Avoid reflecting any stereotyped or patriarchal notion about women in the order.
● Avoid stating anything about the character, dress, past or moral conducts of prosecutrix in the verdict.
● When the bail is granted the complainant should be informed without delay that the accused has been bailed.
● The court should not mandate or suggest to compromise or perform mediation.
● Each High Courts should formulate a module on judicial sensitisation which should be tested in the Judicial Services Examination and included in the training of the judges.
● The Bar Council of India should take measures to include gender sensitisation as a prat of the LL.B. and AIBE syllabus.
The rationale behind this judgement is that the survivors of sexual offences should not face double injustice by being asked to compromise through judicial mandate.The women should not get questioned on their character, clothing, behaviour, or past conducts and morals.
The judiciary should restrain from passing any judgment or order that reflects stereotyped or patriarchal mindset. The role of judiciary is to serve justice. It should never cause injustice by asking to compromise for such heinous crimes. The judiciary should be aware of gender sensitisation. Through this judgment the apex court mandated all the High Courts to include sensitisation in their judicial trainings and exams.
DEFECTS OF LAW:
In this case the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India rectified the defect of law visible in the judgement of Vikram vs. State of Madhya Pradesh. The Supreme Court openly criticised the judgement passed in the aforementioned case, which mandated a stereotyped condition for granting bail that the accused of sexual harassment should visit the victim and get tied a rakhi on his wrist by the victim. This order by the Madhya Pradesh High Court mandated a compromise between the accused and the victim which affected the honour and dignity of the victim. Therefore the apex court overturned the High Court order.
There are many instances when the High Courts or trial courts give disappointing judgments. One such was in the famous rakhi case of Vikram vs. State of Madhya Pradesh. In this case the Madhya Pradesh High Court trivialised the suffering of the victim by asking the accused to perform Raksha Bandhan rituals with the accused. This reflected the patriarchal notion of the bench. It belittled the victim’s dignity and did injustice to her and the society as a whole.
However, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India set aside the judgement in Vikram vs. State of Madhya Pradesh and corrected the wrongful judgment while issuing guidelines for passing bail or anticipatory bail orders in dealing with sexual offences cases. So that no more disappointing judgements would be passed in the future.