A court in Belagavi on Monday convicted a man of raping a minor and sentenced him to 10 years rigorous imprisonment. However, this verdict might complicate matters for Priya (name changed) as she married her rapist under pressure, and few months ago gave birth to a baby.
Krishna Dashrath Nitturkar (then 25) of Desur village in Belagavi district kidnapped his neighbour Priya on June 26, 2013. A labourer by profession, Krishna took her to lodges where he raped her multiple times and in different locations. Nine days later, he dropped Priya at a local bus stop and fled.
Meanwhile, Priyaâ€™s mother had lodged a missing complaint at the Belagavi Rural police station. When she was let go, Priya informed her family of what had happened. They then filed a complaint with the police. At the time of the incident Priya was a minor â€“ she was 17 years and 10 months old.
Krishna was subsequently put behind bars for a short period, before he was released on bail by the Dharwad Circuit Bench of the Karnataka High Court.
In February 2014, when evidence was submitted to the Belagavi Sessions court, Priya had told the court that Krishna raped her. Her mother and brother also testified in the case and stood by her.
However, prosecuting lawyer F Naikwadi said that in June Krishna threatened and forced Priya to marry him, much against the wishes of her family.
Chavan, Priyaâ€™s uncle, said: â€śThe boy thought by marrying her, he would be absolved of the crime, but this is not right.â€ť
This February, when the court was hearing the case, Priya turned hostile but her mother and brother stood by their statements. Incidentally, she was also six-seven months pregnant.
The judge noted that this was a non-compoundable offence, i.e., the charges cannot be dropped by the complainant. The court found Krishna guilty of the offence and sentenced him to 10 years rigorous imprisonment under various sections of IPC and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. It also imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 which would be paid to her.
Chavan claims that he, Priyaâ€™s mother and brother have cut ties with her as they are all angry with her for having married her rapist. She no longer lives with the family.
Advocate Sudha Ramalingam says the plight of rape survivors like Priya is never understood by society including their families, which sometimes results in them marrying their rapists. The pressures could be in the form of society looking down upon them, no proper rehabilitation, no scope for marriage or society finding faults with the girl, she says.
â€śThe court gave her a patient hearing and the family supported her, she must not have agreed to the marriage but there could still be apprehensions in the girlâ€™s mind which may have led to the agreement,â€ť says Sudha.
The yardstick to deal with such cases should be fair hearing, she adds. â€śOffering to compromise does not bring down the gravity of an offence. The accused cannot be exonerated from the crime heâ€™s committed simply because he agreed to marry her,â€ť she says.
While in this case the court did not seem to be influenced by the â€ścompromiseâ€ť Krishna made by marrying the woman he raped â€“ a recent order by a Madras High Court asking a rape survivor who was a minor to â€śsettleâ€ť the matter by mediation with her rapist can be distressing.
It can encourage rapists to see it as viable option.
â€śAgreeing to compromise by marrying the victim is never a solution and the court will never accept it,â€ť says Sudha.