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Rape Of 65 Year Old Lady : Whether The Judgment Of Delhi High Court Erroneous?

On October 17, 2014 the Delhi High considered the question whether the person who had forceful sex with an age old lady of 65 years liable to be punished under Indian Penal Code. Here, the Court was considering a case where an old woman was brutally raped in 2010. The judgment pronounced by the High Court raised many controversies and debates in the society. The case was decided by hon’ble Justice Mukta Gupta along with Justice Pradeep Nandrajog who acquitted the 49 year old accused. The Court was of the opinion that even though the sexual intercourse was forceful, it was not forcible. The Court further held that the deceased lady was further than the age of menopause when considering Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code. The contention raised by the appellant was also accepted by the Court that the rape was not against her wishes and consent.

The dead body of the woman was found in her residence as well as the accused Achey Lal in an intoxicated condition. A girl who happened to witness the event informed the police and the accused was arrested immediately. When the postmortem report was out, it disclosed that she had sustained injury at private parts and found that she was also intoxicated. After analyzing the evidences and postmortem report the lower Court came to the conclusion that the accused was guilty of the offence punishable under Section 376 of Indian Penal Code. After trial he was convicted for rigorous imprisonment for ten years. Now when the appeal was preferred by the accused to the High Court, the main question before the Court was whether the death of the woman was natural death or due to the forcible rape committed by the accused. The bench evaluated the evidence and concluded that the lady though sustained injuries, other injuries were absent on the body of the victim to specify that she protested the act of the accused. Therefore, the appeal was allowed and the conviction of Achey Lal was set aside. The Court also ordered for the immediate release of the accused.

The decision led to protests from various sides of the nation including social activists and lawyers. People are of the opinion that the person who raped the age old lady would have given more grave punishments. But instead the High Court considered the age of the victim and ignored other factors when deciding the matter. Social activist Vrinda Grover questioned the reasons for reaching the conclusion that it was not rape. She also criticized the Court for using the medical term menopause in an irrelevant situation. The people are also of the opinion that the injury in the private parts of the lady itself is evidence that there was forced rape. From this judgment, the Court has gone far behind the Madura Rape case where a girl was raped by constables in police station.

Subsequent to the Madura Rape case, the Parliament initiated two important amendments where it was instated that it is not relevant to explain the injuries that are caused during rape and the consent of the victim is irrelevant when considering rape cases. Considering all these facts, the activists point out that the judgment was erroneous and against justice. Criticism was raised for the use of word menopause and acquittal of the accused based on the age of the old lady. Recently, the Government of India has reported to the High Court of Bombay that where an unmarried lady wants to apply for passport to her child, she should expressly point out if that child was born as a consequence of rape. It is also said that always the rape victims are mistreated by announcing her to be out of condition to lead a marital life and the decisions that come against the victim worsen their conditions. The possibility of further appeal before the Supreme Court in this case cannot be ignored as many questions still remain unanswered.