CHENNAI:With the State Legal Services Authority choosing to go ahead with the mediation between a rape victim and her rapist on July 13, a retired judge of the Madras High Court has said that the woman could opt out of the exercise.
“The only redemption in this case is that even if the girl chooses not to attend the mediation it would not amount to contempt of court,” he argued. Justice Chandru was critical of the fact that the mediation was being conducted despite the Supreme Court, in another case, strongly disapproving of such negotiations in sexual assault cases.
Well known women’s rights activist and senior advocate Sudha Ramalingam contended that the controversy aside, the Supreme Court’s order in the Madhya Pradesh case cannot directly bind the Madras High Court in the instant case.
“Justice Devadoss had passed the order much before the apex court’s directive came about. Though mediation in rape cases is not welcome, the order would stand till it is withdrawn or reviewed,” she explained.
“We cannot apply the Supreme Court’s directive to Justice Devadoss’s order, but anything which comes hereafter will be bound by the directive,” she added.
Meanwhile, Justice Chandru also disapproved of the manner in which a division bench of the High Court dealt with Pavithra, a woman from Vellore’s Ambur district, whose alleged illicit affair with a Muslim man (who died following alleged police torture), had triggered a riot recently. The judges had reportedly admonished Pavithra, when she was produced before them, and disapproved of her personal conduct.
“Judges cannot express their personal opinion while adjudicating a case. In habeas corpus cases, the judges can at best ask the victim’s age and whether she was under duress or illegal detention. If the court finds that the woman is a major, she must be allowed to go free. The judges have nothing more to decide,” he said.