Written by: Muskan Rathore (Intern)
Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)
The facts in the case of Aparna Bhat & Ors vs. State of Madhya Pradesh & Anr, allege that the accused had entered the complainant’s house in the middle of the night, caught hold of her hand and attempted to harass her sexually. In this matter, the Madhya Pradesh high court conditioned the bail application of the accused applicant, stating that he ask the complainant to tie him a thread of Rakhi and tender 11,000 Rupees to her as a customary ritual. A special leave petition was filed in front of the Supreme Court seeking directions for courts to abstain from imposing such conditions or making statements that plays down the trauma caused to the victim. The bench comprising of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat observed that instances like these not only weaken the effect an offence has on the society but also illustrates the callousness of the judicial system towards the victims, exposing them to secondary trauma.
The orders should not reflect stereotypical or patriarchal notions about women and their place in the society, hence steps taken towards compromises between the accused and the victim is not within the powers of the courts. Judges should ensure that the prosecutrix do not suffer secondary trauma due to the proceedings, ergo they should avoid use of words, express or implied, which causes them to believe the court’s to be partial and further shaking their confidence in the judicial process.
The bench held that bail conditions are to protect further harassment by the accused and are to protect the victims by avoiding any contact between them. There needs to be judicial sensitivity to sexual offences in particular which need to be tested as part of the Judicial Service Examination, hence directing the Bar Council of India to include certain topics in this regard as part of LLB syllabus, and High Courts should lay out certain parts like these to be mandatorily included as part of the AIBE syllabus.
Further, the bench requested the National Judicial Academy (NJA) to devise necessary inputs on the training of Young Judges, Standing Counsels and Public Prosecutors since they play a prominent role in the legal system and should be given training as even a single instance as such affects the entire judicial system, therefore undermining fair justice principle, especially in gender based crimes. The court mandated the requirement of including Gender Sensitization Modules as part of their training, thus imparting them techniques on hearing and deciding cases of sexual assault by emphasizing on appropriate language and words to be used during proceedings.
Courts should desist from expression ideas like women are weak and need protection or they are incapable of taking their own decisions and men are superior to them. They should avoid making statements about their place in the family or the society, how they dress, behave, act, their behaviour including smoking or drinking, or about their sexual chastity through past behaviour, or by holding them responsible for being attacked, or presuming that she consented as there was no physical harm evidenced in sexual offences.