A Few Kilos of Wheat and Rice: Compensation for A Rape Victim
Cops in UP resort to ridiculous way of settling rape cases; a few kgs of foodgrain is being offered as compensation
A set of recent incidents involving gruesome rapes of women across the country has yet again raised several questions about Indian society and judiciary. We at The Quint believe that a rape survivor’s life doesn’t end when she is raped. And that even if our institutions - law, the judiciary, the hospitals - are failing a rape survivor, we as a society need to step up. And keep the fight going. We are publishing this article originally published on 26 November 2015 from The Quint’s archives as part of our #KeepFighting campaign.
Despite the widespread outrage that followed after the December 2012 gang rape of a paramedic student in Delhi, little seems to have changed as far as crimes against women are concerned. In a recent instance, a certain quantity of food grain and a paltry sum of Rs 20,000 was deemed to be sufficient to compensate a rape victim in Uttar Pradesh. While such extreme examples highlight India’s patriarchal mindset, it also shows how the law can easily be bypassed to suit one’s convenience.
In January 2013, the Justice Verma Committee Report had come up with a slew of suggestions with respect to gender-related violence. Regarding compensation, the panel while elaborating on Section 376 of the IPC says, “Whoever, except in the cases provided for by sub-section (2), commits the offence of rape shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to pay compensation to the victim, which shall be adequate to meet at least the medical expenses incurred by the victim.”
Offering Compensation to Rape Victims
The question is what defines adequate compensation. These are a few instances in which monetary compensation was offered to simply hush up the crime.
1) Drop rape charges in exchange of 50 kg wheat and 50 kg rice (November 14, 2015): That’s the solution the Uttar Pradesh police offered in the rape case of a mentally challenged woman in the rural area of Para, near Lucknow. The incident which took place on October 27 failed to make it to headlines in the national dailies and was reported by regional newspapers only.
2) Panchayat suggests dropping rape charges for Rs 20,000 (November 13, 2015): On November 13, a panchayat in Amroha district of Uttar Pradesh decided that a compensation of Rs 20,000 should be enough and suggested the victim drop charges in exchange for money. The incident took place on November 9 and the panchayat ‘resolved’ the issue in only four days.
3) Teenager asked to settle rape case in exchange for Rs 50,000 (January 4, 2013): This was yet another gem of sorts from the panchayat of Mauli village in Pratapgarh, UP. A 13-year-old girl was asked to settle the case in lieu of Rs 50,000. Even the local police didn’t come to the victim’s rescue and it was only when the girl’s family approached the SP (Superintendent of Police) that an FIR was finally registered.
4) Rapist refuses to marry, panchayat orders a compensation of Rs 30,000 (March 22, 2010): The panchayat in Bahpuri village in Uttar Pradesh’s Rampur district fixed a compensation of Rs 30,000 for a rape victim. The diktat followed after the rapist refused to marry the victim which led the panchayat to come up with this bizarre offer.
5) Bihar panchayat offers compensation, asks victim to marry again (July 11, 2011): A sum of Rs 1 lakh was fixed as compensation for a victim of gangrape in the Jamui district of Bihar. The trauma for the woman didn’t end there as the panchayat also suggested the lady divorce her husband and marry again under Islamic rules.
Ensuring Rehabilitation of the Victim
These examples, apart from pointing at the laxity of cops, also show that when so-called community elders take it upon themselves to resolve a crime as serious as rape, the term ‘justice’ itself becomes ambiguous. Such community-based diktats have often prompted the courts to spring into action and bring some semblance of sanity to the situation.
In January 2014, in Birbhum district, a woman was gang-raped on the orders of a Shalishi (term for village panchayat in West Bengal). The victim’s only fault was falling for a man from outside her tribal community. The Supreme Court intervened in the matter in March and not only lashed out at such kangaroo courts but also pointed fingers at the state machinery.
The court observed, “Ultimately, the question which ought to be considered and assessed by this Court is whether the State Police Machinery could have possibly prevented the said occurrence. The response is certainly a ‘yes’. The State is duty bound to protect the Fundamental Rights of its citizens; and an inherent aspect of Article 21 of the Constitution would be the freedom of choice in marriage. Such offences are resultant of the States incapacity or inability to protect the Fundamental Rights of its citizens.”
A decade ago, in June 2005 in Muzaffarnagar, 28-year old Imrana was raped by her father-in-law. When the matter came to light, the village panchayat issued an edict that since Imrana had ‘slept with’ her father-in-law, the latter would become her husband while her then husband would have to be treated as her son.
One only wonders how many Imranas would have to suffer the same fate before some sense dawns on community elders who fail to empathise with rape victims at so many levels.
(Paying off a rape victim by offering paltry sum as compensation, is it enough? Read an opinion piece here.)
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