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‘She may be an extrovert, not a liar’: Why HC upheld 20-yr jail for 2 in 2015 OP Jindal rape case

New Delhi: Upholding the 20-year life imprisonment for two former students of O.P. Jindal Global University in Sonepat in connection with a 2015 incident of gangrape and blackmail of a fellow university student, the Punjab and Haryana High Court Friday said that “merely because victim is alleged to be a woman of easy virtue, her testimony cannot be discarded”.

The bench comprising Justices Tejinder Singh Dhindsa and Pankaj Jain confirmed the convictions of Hardik Sikri and Karan Chhabra, but acquitted the third accused Vikas Garg. The complainant had filed an FIR in the case in April 2015, and a court in Sonepat had found Hardik and Karan guilty of gangrape, while Vikas was convicted for rape.

The case made headlines when the high court had granted bail to the three accused in September 2017 and had suspended their 20-year sentence, making several references to “promiscuity”, “adventurism”, and “experimentation in sexual encounters” of the victim. Her statement, the court said, “offers an alternate conclusion of misadventure stemming from a promiscuous attitude and a voyeuristic mind”. The Supreme Court had then stepped in to stay their bail in November 2017.

Upholding their conviction, the HC Friday said that the complainant had successfully proven that she was being “blackmailed and forced into an abusive relationship”.

The court noted that the accused had referred to the complainant’s chats with other boys to question her testimony. However, it refused to draw such an inference, observing, “As per settled law, merely because victim is alleged to be a woman of easy virtue, her testimony cannot be discarded. She has a right to protect her dignity”

The court found the statement of the complainant “trustworthy”, and found it to be corroborated by WhatsApp chats and statements of other witnesses. It asserted, “From the conjoint reading of the testimony of the prosecutrix before the trial court and the WhatsApp chat, the version of the prosecutrix gets fully corroborated. She comes out to be a person who may be termed as an open and extrovert but definitely can’t be said to be a fibster.”

Also Read: Rajasthan teen ‘gangraped’ by 8 men for months, ‘filmed & blackmailed for cash’. FIR lodged

‘Silence isn’t consent… Denied even basic dignity’

The 73-page judgment passed on 30 September also has 20 pages of WhatsApp chats between Hardik and the complainant, “in order to comprehend the fracturable state the victim was in on account of barbarism she was facing at the hands of appellant-Hardik”.

“It is evident that it is a case of ‘submission’ on the part of the prosecutrix. Her silence or her caving in to the demands of the accused cannot be termed as consent. After going through the WhatsApp chat, which is the most material evidence on record related to the relationship between the parties, it is evident that the prosecutrix was facing abusive relationship with Hardik (sic),” the court said.

Referring to the chats between the complainant and Hardik, the court noted that she was “at command of Hardik”, and that he used to blackmail her.

“At times, she had to seek his permission even for having dinner or even to drink water…She was forced to buy a sex toy. Time and again she was being threatened with publishing her intimate/obscene pictures,” it observed.

The court, therefore, concluded that she was not a consenting party to the sexual acts, observing, “Reading of the whole chat demonstrates the bawdiness with which the prosecutrix was treated by Hardik. She was not only abused and bruised but was denied even basic dignity to which a living creature is entitled to, leave aside the courtesy and compassion that a human being offers to a fellow.”

“She was noosed and the dilemma that she was facing was not only to keep the noose loose but also to conceal it. Whole of the time she was carrying the burden of the diabolical designs of the accused,” it added.

Also Read: Factory boss ‘raped’ minor employee, forcibly poured ‘some liquid’ in her mouth, say Delhi police

‘More than a willing partner’

A special court in Sonepat court had convicted Hardik and Karan in May 2017, under Sections 376 (rape), 376D (gangrape), 376(2)(n) (committing rape repeatedly on the same woman), 292 (sale, distribution of obscene books etc), and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), along with Section 67 of the Information Technology Act (publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form).

They were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. The third accused, Vikas was convicted under Sections 376, 120B and 292 of the IPC, along with Section 67A of the IT Act, and was sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

In the high court, Karan’s lawyer had contended that the complainant had selectively produced WhatsApp chats, and that she was “more than a willing partner in the intimate encounters”. He also relied on her chats with other boys to contend that she was “an outgoing person”. Hardik’s lawyer had also questioned her version, while asserting that the rule that “generally a woman would not stake her chastity” is not absolute.

The accused had also alleged that the complainant kept “improving” her version from the first complaint, to the statements made by her before the police and before the court. The court, however, rejected these arguments, and upheld the conviction and sentence awarded to Hardik and Karan.

Vikas was, however, acquitted, after the court observed that “the allegation of the prosecution that Vikas was also in cahoots with other two accused could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt”.

(Edited by Anumeha Saxena)

Also Read: Student ‘dragged, undressed, molested’ on JNU campus. Police file case, no action yet from univ

Source: The Print

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