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JGLS slams HC freeing gangrape convicts after 4 months: Judges blame victim, call rape an ‘escapade’, show compassion for ‘young [rapist] minds’ [READ ORDER]

3 JGLS gang-rapist sentences suspended by high court
3 JGLS gang-rapist sentences suspended by high court

The Punjab and Haryana high court has suspended the 20-year and 7-year rape sentences of three JGLS Sonepat students, reasoning in its short order of merely 12 pages that “an alternate story of casual relationship” and “adventurism and experimentation in sexual encounters” of the victim - also a JGLS Sonepat student - justified the suspension, reported several media outlets.

Senior advocates RS Cheema, Vinod Ghai and Dr Anmol Rattan Sidhu were briefed for the applicants, respectively by advocates AS Cheema, SS Sandhu and Pratham Sethi.

Advocate Jasraj Singh appeared for the complainant.

In the case the three former JGLS students - Hardik Sikri and Karan Chhabra (who had each received 20-year sentences) and Vikas Garg (who received 7 years) - had been convicted of having blackmailed the victim with the threat of publishing her nude photos and had gang raped her repeatedly for two years.

However, the high court bench has now noted in the order that the absence of “gut wrenching violence” was “compelling” reason to suspend the sentence.

The JGLS' administration commented:

We recognize the power of the Hon’ble High Court to grant bail under the law. At the same time, it is very disappointing to see certain generalizations made about the youth in general in that order. As is required under the law and universally recognized human rights, a rape survivor deserves to be treated with full respect for her inherent dignity and not to be re-victimized in any manner. We are deeply perturbed at certain gratuitous remarks made about the rape survivor, which in our view need to be expunged. We hope and trust that justice will be done.

At the time of their conviction in May of this year, the JGLS administration had made the following statement: “The O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU) welcomes the decision of the District Sessions Court, Sonipat convicting three of our students in a rape case. We strongly condemn this heinous act and recognise that the ends of justice have been met.”

Justices Mahesh Grover and Raj Shekhar Attri wrote in their order:

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. Long incarceration at this stage when the appeal is not likely to mature for some time is likely to result in an irreparable damage. We are also of the opinion that the 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.

Including the time in jail until their conviction in May 2017, the three had been jailed for between one year 11 months, and 2 years 5 months.

But the bench also added in its 14 page judgment:

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.

And, despite noting right at the end of its order, that “nothing said above should be construed to be an expression on the merits of the case”, their lordships write about one incident of rape narrated by the victim under cross-examination at trial, "it would be debatable whether such escapades were possible around a place throbbing with activity and frequented by students till late night”.

In further moralising, the judges write:

We have considered the arguments of the learned counsel and have thought it prudent to refer to the statement of the prosecutrix and her cross-examination in extenso to gain and give an insight into the immature but nefarious world of youngsters unable to comprehend the worth of a relationship based on respect and understanding. The entire crass sequence actually is reflective of a degenerative mindset of the youth breeding denigrating relationships mired in drugs, alcohol, casual sexual escapades and a promiscuous and voyeuristic world.

No wonder, what is thrown up before us is a tragedy of sorts, driving four young lives and equal number of families into an abyss.

And, in perhaps the strongest bit of victim blaming seen by judges, they seem to imply that the blameworthiness of the victim and the rapists are somewhat equal in getting into this situation:

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

Later on, they note that the rapists' blackmail of the victim is certainly not a good thing, though they seem to discount the rape (which they call “misadventure") as primarily having been caused by a “perverse streak” in both the victim and the rapist:

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. She states that “he (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 ordered the convicts to surrender their passports and not to leave the country, although they could apply for leave from the court “in case they want to go abroad in future to pursue their studies”, though them approaching or contacting the victim or her family would result in cancellation of their bail.

“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”,” reported the Times of India.

The court has ordered the three convicts to pay a total of Rs 10 lakh to the victim as compensation as an “interim measure”, as the trial court had omitted to “take care of the victim's concerns” in that regard.

A column in Youth Ki Awaaz commented: “In the order, reference has been made to the prosecutrix smoking cigarettes and agreeing to drink beer. The order also refers to a ‘perverse streak’ displayed by the victim since she agreed to purchasing a sex toy as suggested by the accused. To the young students of the University, it seems incredibly ludicrous that the possession of a sex toy changes the fact of inhumane mental and physical assaults were carried out. It’s beyond me why the Indian judiciary would even include such facts in its judgment which is publically accessible.”

JGLS rape sentence suspension by HC (PDF)

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