“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice”- Abraham Lincoln.
The duty of the judiciary is to be fair, but also considerate. If the court does not understand context or perspective and yield the hand of law accordingly, then the very fundamental nature of the authority comes under scrutiny. Leniency must always be a defining virtue of the court.
More than 300 lawyers have addressed a letter to the Chief Justice of the Patna High Court calling for the “need for urgent and systemic changes in the treatment of survivors of sexual crimes in the Araria District Court.”
This is following the incident of- a 22-year-old woman who filed a police complaint alleging gangrape in Bihar’s Araria district, being arrested on charges of disrupting court proceedings on July 10. The woman, who works as a cook and is illiterate, was allegedly gangraped on July 6. The woman said that she had gone out with a man on the evening of 6 July to learn how to ride a bike. After some time, they had stopped at a place where three more men came and forcibly took her to a deserted place, said the complainant, adding that the men then called another to join them. Later, all four took turns to rape her after which they left the woman, threatening to come back again, she told the police.
According to the complaint, a copy of which was accessed by ThePrint, the man she had gone knew the alleged rapists as he left the place without protesting when the three men approached them and forcibly took her away. The complaint also said she received “threatening calls” from the man she knew, and also the others, the same night.
The victim filed a complaint on July 7 with Araria women police station. An FIR was registered on July 9. Called to record her statement before the magistrate under Section 164 of CrPC, she appeared with two social activists on July 10. When the magistrate asked her to sign her statement, the woman demanded the presence of social workers during the recording of her statement before a magistrate, said members of the Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan, a non-profit organization that helped her through the process of filing a first information report with the Araria police.
According to The Indian Express, Araria Sub Divisional police officer Pushkar said, “As per rule, no one can accompany a complainant during the recording of her statement before the magistrate. The woman and two activists face charges of stopping public servants from doing their duty and threatening the presiding officer and were sent to jail.”
Two social workers who had accompanied her to the court – Kalyani Badola and Tanmay Nivedita – have also been arrested. All three are in judicial custody at a jail in Samastipur district, 250 km from Araria.
The three were booked under IPC Sections including 353 (assault or criminal force to stop public servant from doing their duty), 229 (personation of a juror), 188 (disobedience to order), 180 (refusing to sign his/ her statement made) and for contempt of court.
The charges were slapped on the three after the mentally-exhausted rape survivor allegedly raised her voice against the Magistrate, threatened him, and snatched a copy of her statement in an apparent onset of disorientation. It is reported that the outburst followed after the rape survivor had spent three hours in the court complex in close proximity to an accomplice of her alleged rapists. The care-givers are also reported to have raised their voices in court.
Ashish Ranjan, Secretary, Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan, told The Indian Express: “The survivor was well within her rights to ask for a confidant. The court mistook her agitation as a personal affront. The focus seems to have shifted from the rape case to the misbehavior allegations on the survivor. We have full faith in the judiciary and are looking for legal remedies.”
“It is true that she got very agitated and upset in court and refused to sign the statement, but she had been in a state of trauma for four days,” said Kamayani Swami, a social worker with the Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan. Swami said that the woman did eventually sign the statement.
Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan has demanded the immediate release of the rape survivor, Kalyani Badola and Tanmay Nivedita on “humanitarian grounds”, because of the risk of them catching Covid-19 in jail. “We also believe that the court has failed to understand the mental state of the survivor,” the organization added.