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“Rape is a violation of personal dignity”- (Prosecutor v. Akayesu , 1998)(International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, 1998)1.
“Sexual violence is a serious blow to her supreme honour and offends her self-esteem and dignity.”- State of Karnataka v. Krishnappa (Supreme Court of India, 2000)2
In the history of human, race, and mankind, rape is considered as one of the most heinous crime. In the 21′ century where both woman and man should treated and respected equally, It’s quite ironical, strange and disappointing at the same time that the fact, a country which worships women as goddess and believe in the ideology of women empowerment stands fourth with rape being the most common type of crime happening on the streets of India.
The case of MUKESH & Anr vs STATE FOR NCT DELHI & Ors3 famously known as the “NIRBHAYA CASE” is one of the most landmark case with a landmark judgment which showed the road ahead that somewhere the laws related to sexual assault, sexual abuse and rape have to be more strict and it showcased the scenario of woman not being safe in our society, they need to be protected.
Still in India, unregistered cases related to sexual assault, abuse, rape are double in numbers than the cases which are getting registered. This case not only gave power to woman to come in front and fight for themselves but also the judiciary in administering justice for Nirbhaya played an important role.
One case which gave an international shock of horror was that which took place on 16″ December 2012, i.e. the infamous Nirbhaya rape case. Even though this incident had forever tarnished India’s image in the entire world, had brought about a few very important changes in the penalties for sexual crimes against women. Protests, rallies, marches, institutions, women organizations, etc. not only in India but all over the world came into picture in order to display their agitation, demand justice and stand with Nirbhaya.
The problem of Rape is a major social menace in India which is reflective of the inferior and derogatory treatment meted out to women. It is also somehow reflective of the system of patriarchy in our Indian society. Rape is considered to be a very grievous offense which is constituted against all the women disregarding their age.
A landmark case which happened on 16″December, 2012, shook not only the entire nation but also created a wave of despair internationally was that of a rape victim.
Facts Of The Case
1 Prosecutor v. Akayesu, Case No. ICTR-96-4-T, Judgement, ¶ 597 (Sept. 2, 1998),
https://unictr. irmct. org/sites/unictr.org/files/case-documents/ictr-96-4/trial-judgements/en/980902.pdf [https://perma.cc/8DB3-SBJS].
2 State of Karnataka v. Krishnappa (2000) 4 SCC 75, 15 (India).
3 Mukesh and Anrs. Vs NCT Delhi (Nirbhaya Case)(2017) 6 SCC 1
The rape victim (Jyothi Singh aka Nirbhaya) was a 23-year old physiotherapy student. She was heading home after watching a movie at Select City Walk, located in Saket, South Delhi, with her male friend. As they were waiting for a commute at the Munirka bus stop in Delhi, one of the accused (a minor) called for passengers saying that the bus was headed to Dwarka. Suspicion arose when the bus deviated from the normal route and the doors of the bus were also shut. The bus already had a group of 6 men who started misbehaving with the couple when the male friend objected as to the direction of the route. As a result of their argument, these men started beating the male friend, gagged him knocked him down unconscious with an iron rod. Seeking the opportunity, the accused men forced Nirbhaya onto the backseat of the bus as the driver continued to drive the bus. They mercilessly beat her with the iron rod and raped her for about an hour as she kept fighting back. The men inserted the same iron rod, which was rusted and like that of an L-shaped implement used as a wheel jack handle (as described by the police on investigation) into her private parts, badly rupturing her insides and ripping her intestines apart.
After taking out all their aggression on the victim and fearing her to be dead, the accused men threw the couple out of the moving bus, abandoning them of their clothes and all other belongings. At around 11 pm, both the victims, in a critical state, were found on the road by a passer-by who immediately informed the Delhi police who then took the couple to Safdarjung Hospital. As per the doctors in the emergency ward, Jyothi was found to be in an extremely critical condition, incurring extreme blood loss, injury marks and also multiple bite marks on her face which made it all swollen and unrecognizable. Various surgeries were conducted and the medical report confirmed gang rape. It was observed in the report that the assault inflicted serious abdominal damage and it was mainly the penetration (by the iron rod) which caused massive damage to her genitals, intestines and uterus. Nirbhaya wasn’t just sexually violated and abused; her body was mutilated beyond human imagination.
Later, after lot of treatments and medical help, she died of multiple organ failure, internal bleeding and cardiac arrest on 29″‘ of December,2012.
As a result of this gruesome assault inflicted upon her, Nirbhaya died of multiple organ failure, cardiac arrest and internal bleeding on 29″ December 2012 at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore, where she was transported for better treatment and organ transplant.
This caused a lot of public outrage in the form of candle light marches, solidarity movements and protests all over the country. Public protests took place on 21″ December 2012 at India Gate.
After the victim, i.e. Jyothi’s death on 29″ December, 2012, several protests took place throughout India. Mourners carried out candle marches, wearing black clothes and even put black cloth around their mouth to resemble silence. These Indian protests also sparked protests in countries like Paris, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other South- Asian countries.
UPA government was pressurized to make stricter laws regarding rape and other sexual crimes. The gruesome case shocked the entire nation’s conscience, made international headlines and exposed the scope of sexual violence against women in India.
After, reviewing and going through the facts of the case the Trial Court said that it comes under ” rarest of rare cases” where the culprits have used their power and in aggression and kept the humanity aside and murdered, raped her as if she isn’t a human being and treated her as an object and much more worse than that. The Trail Court and the High Court of Delhi, had the same judgement as well as punishment that was the death penalty for all the four culprits and a fine of Rs 10000/- to be paid by each convict.
The culprits even appealed to Supreme Court where it upheld the High Court and Trial Court’s judgement. All the three courts Trail Court, High Court even the Supreme Court termed this as the “RAREST OF RARE CASES”.
The 5″‘ culprit who was a minor was treated as a minor even though he committed as heinous crime and it was held that he will be imprisoned for three years and the Juvenile Justice tried him and the punishment was given by them. The 6th died during the trial session, where he committed suicide.
After, the judgement of the Supreme Court was passed, they then appealed for Review Petition in the Supreme Court which was also dismissed by the Court as it had no substantial question of law and no further merits to review to the same. Review Petition getting rejected then Curative Petition getting rejected even then they went on to file a Mercy Petition, every single culprit filed for Mercy Petition as well, where the Mercy Petition got rejected i.e. is the President after consultation with the central cabinet rejected the petition and upheld the death penalty of all the four culprits.
After delaying the judgement and punishment thrice, they were finally hanged on 20″ March, 2020.
Famously, known as the Nirbhaya Case, a landmark case which shook not only the whole nation but also the legal system of India.
Nirbhaya case brought a lot of woman to come up and take stand for themselves and even fight for oneself. The outrage was so much that it led to candle march and justice for Nirbhaya march, putting a lot of pressure on the government and on the legal system.
This case actually brought a lot of change in the legal system with Nirbhaya Act, The Juvenile Act, Evidence Act and criminal amendment act 2013.
Before, this incident, hardly people took the whole rape crime in seriously, this case urge to people think about it. Even in the department of the police, they do not take few rape cases seriously or for that marital rape is one such example, it is not a crime in India, it is assumed that when a woman is getting married to a man she is giving the consent for cohabitation, where is it written no one knows except the old age of people and society, this case i.e.
Nirbhaya case did put some light on the marital rape as well, but still no one really discusses about it because marriage is sacred, the society does not permits.
Few men still think that they live a patriarchal society, whereas, we have passed that phase long back, hardly the male section of the society wants to accept it, so when they want to show some power and rage they end up doing crimes like rape, sexual assault, beating up the woman, touching .Nirbhaya case gave light to these kinds of issues, sexual assault, sexual abuse, rape, voyeurism, stalking, sexual harassment issues to be tackled and to be handled with care.
It took 7 years and some months to serve the justice still its half, because the minor who was not so minor in doing the crime he did, was treated like a juvenile, and was released after three years of imprisonment, the minor should have been tried like an adult, but the Indian legal system didn’t permit that. The convicts should be tried the way of the crime they do.
This case saw a lot of ups and downs, mostly down, maybe, because the appellant side being so ugly and harsh and too patriarchal in the thoughts and words they spelt in the court, where the appellant even went to question the medical evidence, the semen samples, the DNA tests, the identification, the rod used, the injuries on the victims, inner thighs, the private parts, the bite marks ,the whole contention was changed to these culprits did not rape in same amount or density, who is deciding the density of the rape, the victim, the judge or the lawyer or the rapists themselves? wasn’t rape supposed to be rape.
The appellant was cross questioned by the Judge about the Joint Liability, even if one person among the group is doing a wrongful activity or crime, each and every one will be equally liable, and here in this case, it is rape, if the intention or meeting of minds wasn’t same then anyone from the group could have stopped the other for committing such an heinous crime.
Death penalty is an exception which used when the life imprisonment does not equalizes the crime, it is the last option. In this case it was said by the judge that with respect to the aggravating circumstances, outweighing the mitigating circumstances there is no way to justify the conversion of whole death sentence imposed by the courts to ‘life imprisonment’. The gruesome offences and crime committed were with highest viciousness.
The whole battle for gender equality and justice can only be won when the strict implementation of whole legislative provisions, sensitivity of emotions of public, taking of pro-active steps at all the levels for extreme and combating violence against women and ensuring the widespread attitudinal changes and comprehensive change in the current existing mind set.
Reforms In Law Post Nirbhaya Case
Bill was an amendment to the Criminal law, and named The Criminal Amendment Act, 2013 also known as the Nirbhaya Act, 2013. The bill was passed and now, the act i.e. the Nirbhaya Act, 2013, amended the punishment for such kind of crime and gave a way to punish the acid attackers as well as to the exception of rape i.e. marital rape, and to talk about marital rape.
The amendment gave a broader meaning to the term rape. It amended the definition under section 375 of Indian Penal Code. Section 375 of Indian Penal Code after amendment defines rape as involuntarily and forceful penetration without the consent of the woman into woman’s body parts like the vagina, urethra, mouth or anus.
There were two development which had major impacts on the amendment These were the Nirbhaya incident and the Justice Verma Committee report, the report which stood up for woman’s rights, to provide quicker trial and enhance the punishment and criminal provisions to commit sexual offences against women.
Many states undertook various steps to ensure safety of women in their area. The government of Tamil Nadu announced a 13 point action plan to ensure safety of women in Tamil Nadu.
The government of Karnataka also took steps and set up a 24×7 helpline dedicated towards the registration of complaints regarding sexual assault against women.
A Brief Synopsis Of The New Offences/Procedures Recommended By The Justice Verma Committee On Amendments To Criminal Law
A judicial committee headed by Justice Verma was appointed by the central government to submit a report in 30 days regarding the amendments and suggestions relating to reforms in laws concerning sexual violence against women.
Justice Verma Committee’s report was submitted after 29 days and recommend that: 1: Asked for review of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958.
2: Set the maximum punishment of death penalty instead of life imprisonment.
3: The committee also refused the idea of lowering the age of juvenile from 18 to 16.
4: It also recommended that marriage should not be considered as a way or license to perform sexual offences just because the other person is their spouse.
5: The committee also counselled that even gestures which are sexually offensive, or even non-consensual and non-penetrative touching of sexual nature should be considered as a sexual offence against women and the offenders should be punished for the same.
6: Earlier, the definition of rape under section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was only restricted to sexual intercourse. But, after this incident, the scope of section 375 of the IPC was widened to include acts in addition to forceful sexual intercourse. Section 375 of the IPC, after the amendment, defines rape as any involuntary and forceful penetration without the woman’s consent into the woman’s body parts like the vagina, urethra, mouth or anus. Two developments the Nirbhaya incident and the Justice Verma Committee report, had a significant impact on this amendment.
7: Changes made to the CrPC included the addition of section 164 (5A), which made it mandatory for the judicial magistrate to record the statement of the victim as soon as the commission of the crime was reported by the victim to the police.
8: Section 53 was added to the Indian Evidence Act, which dealt with the irrelevance of previous sexual acts of the victim and the character of the accused as well as the victim when the consent or quality of consent is in question in a criminal proceeding, concerning the offences under sections 354, 354A, 354B, 354C, 354D, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D, 376E of the IPC and an attempt to commit such offences.
On 1 February 2013, the Cabinet Ministers approved bringing the suggestions made by Justice Verma committee by way of amendments in the country’s criminal laws. As a result, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on 19″ March 2013 and Rajya Sabha on 21 March 2013. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, also called the Nirbhaya Act, came into force on 3 April 2013. It provided for the amendment of the IPC, the Indian Evidence Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, regarding laws relating to sexual offences.
on 22 December, 2015, the Juvenile Justice Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha, lowering the age of a juvenile offender in the eyes of law to 16 years rather than 18 years.
Government had also set up the Nirbhaya Fund, administered by the Department of Economic Affairs, to support initiatives by various NGOs and government institutions working towards the safety and protection of women against such heinous crimes.
Nirbhaya case incident is the one which will never forever mark the height of monstrosity prevailing in our society and the level to which a man, not particularly entailed by lust, but by anger and male ego, can stoop to actually ‘mutilate’ a woman beyond human imagination.
Stringent preventive actions need to be taken to stop the occurrence of such offenses which would also eliminate the crimes committed by those psychopaths and determined criminals who have no respect for law and the rules of the society.
The recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee are likely to have a long-lasting impact on Indian jurisprudence regarding sexual offences and women’s rights more generally. The Committee’s Report reconceptualized sexual violence as a violation of sexual autonomy, thus taking it out of the honour-chastity-modesty framework, within which sexual violence is currently placed in the judicial and social imagination.
(1860). Indian Panel code.
MUKESH & Anr vs STATE FOR NCT, 1 (SCC 2017).
The Criminal Procedure Code. (1973).
The Evidence Act. (1872).