The court observed that woman’s statement offered an alternate conclusion of “promiscuous attitude and a voyeuristic mind”.The HC ordered counselling of the trio at AIIMS “for correcting their behavioural aberration”.
In an unusual order, the Punjab and Haryana high court granted bail to three convicts in the infamous blackmailing and gang rape case of a student of OP Jindal Global University at Sonipat, observing that woman’s statement offered an alternate conclusion of “misadventure stemming from a promiscuous attitude and a voyeuristic mind”.
The HC passed these orders while allowing the bail plea of the three convicts — Hardik Sikri, Karan Chabra and Vikas Garg — till the pendency of their appeal against conviction.
Applying the element of reformatory and rehabilitative justice in its order, a division bench of the HC ordered counselling of the trio at All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) “for correcting their behavioural aberration”.
“We are conscious of the fact that allegations of the victim regarding her being threatened into submission and blackmail lends sufficient diabolism to the offence, but a careful examination of her statement again offers an alternate conclusion of misadventure stemming from a promiscuous attitude and a voyeuristic mind,” observed a division bench comprising Justice Mahesh Grover and Justice Raj Shekhar Atri.
The bench went on to observe, “She states that ‘he (one of the accused, Hardik) then sent his own nude pictures and coaxed me into sending my own nude pictures’. The perverse streak in both is also revealed from her admission that a sex toy was suggested by Hardik and her acceptance of the same.”
The bench directed that all the three convicts would be subjected to counselling by a trained psychiatrist of AIIMS and “a report in that regard be communicated to the HC indicating whether the applicants are free of their voyeuristic tendencies”.
The court has also directed the three to pay Rs 10 lakh compensation, to be shared equally by them, to the rape survivor.
In March this year, a local court in Sonipat had awarded a 20-year sentence to Hardik and Karan each and a seven-year jail term to Vikas, holding them guilty of blackmailing and gang-raping a student of their university for around two years.
While challenging the orders, the counsel for accused had vehemently argued that the testimony of the girl did not reveal that she was being subjected to a traumatic blackmail rather, she came across as a willing and compliant person.
A complaint was lodged by the girl student to the university administration on April 11, 2015, alleging that the trio, final year law students of the university, have been blackmailing and raping her since August 2013. She also alleged that the accused were having her objectionable photos and they used to threaten her for making the photos viral. She was being blackmailed and forced to make physical relations with them.
— The 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 a 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 precede or accompany such incidents.
— It would be a travesty if these young minds are confined to jail for an inordinate long period which would deprive them of their education, opportunity to redeem themselves and be a part of the society as normal beings. Pendency of the appeal, ironically may work as a guarantee to prevent a repeat resulting from the fear of incarceration in the event of failure of the appeal.
The court order in this case exhibits victim shaming of the worst kind. Defence counsel in rape cases often try and paint the victim as a person of loose morals. It is most unfortunate that a high court has stigmatised a victim in a similar manner. The Supreme Court has in the past said that victims of sexual crimes should not be stigmatised for their perceived morality and that a woman has the right to refuse consent to sex even if she has been promiscuous. That is as it should be. We wish the court had shown at least as much sensitivity towards the victim in this case as it has towards the accused.