India has been a witness of a number of landmark judgements in its glorious legal history. These unique judgements give birth to legislations, which weren’t there before. For example, KM Nanawati’s case, that abolished the jury system, Vishakha vs State of Rajasthan, which gave birth to Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, and a lot more. The Mathura Rape case was certainly one of such unique case.
Mathura Rape Case 1979 AIR (SC) 185
Bench: Jaswant Singh, P.S. Kailasam and A.D. Koshal
Facts of the case
Mathura was a minor tribal girl. The girl’s parent died when she was very young and lived with her brother. She along with her brother, worked as labours as a means of livelihood. For work, Mathura used to go to Nushi’s house, where she came into contact with Nushi’s sister’s son, Ashok. Soon they became close and got married.
A report was lodged, 26th March 1972, alleging that Mathura was kidnapped by Nushi, her husband Laxman and Ashok. The report was recorded by Head Constable Baburao. The three persons, as well as Mathura, were brought to the police. Their statements were recorded. Baburao told them to go and he went home to take his evening meal. At that time there were two constables present at the police station.
After Baburao had gone away, Mathura, Nushi, Gama and Ashok started leaving the police station. The appellants, however, asked Mathura to wait at the police station and told her companions to move out. The direction was complied with. Immediately thereafter Ganpat appellant took Mathura into a loo and raped her in spite of protests and stiff resistance on her part. After he departed then Tukaram another constable, who was seated on a cot nearby, came to the place where Mathura was. He also wanted to rape her but was unable to do so for the reason that he was in a highly intoxicated condition.
When Mathura did not come out for a long time, Ashok and Nushi became suspicious and it grew even more, station’s lights were being turned off. They went to the rear of the police station and called her name. Tukaram came out and told that Mathura had left. The noise attracted the crowd. He went out and shortly after, Mathura came out and told what happened.
Nushi took her to Dr.Khune, who confirmed that Mathura was raped. A few persons brought Head Constable Baburao from his house. He found that the crowd had grown restive and was threatening to beat Ganpat appellant and also to burn down the police station. Baburao, however, was successful in persuading the crowd to disperse and thereafter took down the statement of Mathura which was registered as the FIR.
Mathura was examined by Dr. Kamal Shastrakar, who said there were no signs that showed that the girl was forced. And therefore charges were removed, and on 12 Oct 1976, Bombay High Court acquitted the two constables.
The appeal by special leave was filed against the of the High Court of Judicature at Bombay reversing a judgment of acquittal of the two appellants of an offence under Section 376 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code recorded by the Sessions Judge, Chandrapur, on the 1st June 1974, and convicting Tukaram, of an offence under Section 354 of the Code and Ganpat of one under Section 376 thereof. The sentences imposed by the High Court on the two appellants were rigorous imprisonment for a year and 5 years respectively.
Observations of Supreme Court
Supreme Court observed that “evidence regarding consent has to be inferred from the available circumstances and “that from those circumstances it could not be deduced that the girl had been subjected to or was under any fear or compulsion such as would justify an inference of any passive submission, and this contention appears to us to be well-based.”
However, Supreme Court further observed that “In coming to the conclusion that the consent of the girl was a case of ‘passive submission’, the High Court mainly relied on the circumstance that at the relevant time the girl was in the police station where she would feel helpless in the presence of the two appellants who were persons in authority and whose advances she could hardly repel all by herself and inferred that her submission to the act of sexual intercourse must be regarded as the result of fear and, therefore, as no consent in the eye of law.”
Supreme Court held that“we conclude that the sexual intercourse in question is not proved to amount to rape and that no offence is brought home to Ganpat appellant.” With regard to Tukaram, Court held that “We do not, therefore, propose to take the girl at her word in relation to Tukaram appellant and hold that the charge remains wholly unproved against him.”
After the Supreme Court acquitted the accused, there was public outcry and protests, which eventually led to THE CRIMINAL LAW (SECOND AMENDMENT) ACT, 1983 in which:
- a) Section 114(A) was added to Evidence Act which states that if the victim says that she did not consent to the sexual intercourse, the Court shall presume that she did not consent (rebuttable presumption of law).
- b) 376(A), Section 376(B), Section 376(C), Section 376(D) IPC were also added which made custodial rape punishable (which were further amended in 2013 after Nirbhaya Rape Case).
- c) Besides defining custodial rape, the amendment shifted the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused once intercourse was established; it also added provisions for in-camera trials, the prohibition on the victim identity disclosure and tougher sentences.
So, Mathura rape case was a monumental one. It changed both legal and social perspective leading to reforms in the Indian rape laws.