#NoMoreNirbhaya: Tripura HC Shows Us How to Punish Rapist Fathers
The Tripura High Court shows how to deal with rapist fathers who lie
Far away from the gaze of mainstream media, the Tripura High Court has laid down an important precedent in cases when fathers rape their daughters.
The case before the court involved a father who raped his nine-year-old daughter twice. The child’s mother, who witnessed her husband raping her daughter, kept quiet fearing her husband’s wrath and social stigma. She herself had been a victim of domestic violence.
Three months after the first incident, however, she gathered enough courage to approach the police.
The Father’s Stand
The man flatly denied that he had raped his daughter and said that the gap of three months between the alleged incidents and the police complaint showed his wife was lying. He also claimed to be a loving father.
He even claimed his wife filed the rape complaint only to get back at him. The wife had earlier filed a ‘domestic violence’ complaining against him.
In contrast, a French diplomat who allegedly raped his 3-year-old daughter in Bangalore, has evaded trial.
Child’s Testimony the Only Pertinent Issue
The court did well to steer clear of the domestic violence issue, because that could have meant starting with the presumption that the child was lying. Especially because she had told the trial court judge that her parents quarrelled often, and that her father frequently used to assault her mother.
Instead, Justice Deepak Gupta, who wrote the judgement, held that one shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the credibility of the child’s testimony was the sole issue of pertinence. And, that the father’s allegations should not be allowed to cloud the judicial mind.
Treating Children with Sensitivity, not Kid Gloves
When a child stands in the witness box and has to narrate her painful ordeal, trial courts often end up reducing the testifying process to a pornographic spectacle. Defence lawyers resort to all sorts of strategies to bully and humiliate the child, and the trauma which that induces is often as painful as the alleged rape itself.
Often courts fall for the notion that children, because of their tender age, are impressionable and can be dishonestly influenced by ‘scheming’ mothers. And so, magistrates set a cruelly high standard of evidence and demand all sorts of corroboration. Which, in cases of child sex abuse, are often are impossible to meet. Result - conscience-jarring acquittals.
However, in this case, the court was cautious enough not to commit a travesty. Examining the child’s testimony, it held that she had clearly articulated the ‘depraved’ act her father had inflicted upon her. To demand any other form of evidence, or corroboration would be wrong, it held.
It is true, that in every criminal trial, “proof beyond reasonable doubt” is an inviolable tenet, and that misplaced judicial sympathy or empathy should not infringe upon an accused’s right to a fair trial, but clearly here, Justice Gupta felt the child’s testimony was enough and met the standards of justice.
It is no secret that rapist fathers are not rare anomalies in families and society. The High Court’s ruling just provided a good example of how to deter them from perpetrating unspeakable brutality on their children.
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