Rape Case Cannot Be Quashed Merely Because Survivor Has Forgiven The Accused: Meghalaya HC

It is really most delighting to note that while not lagging behind in taking the bull by the horns, we see that the Meghalaya High Court in a most learned, laudable, landmark, logical and latest judgment titled Tenzin Tsephel vs State of Meghalaya in Criminal Petition No. 39 of 2024 and cited in Neutral Citation No.: 2024:MLHC:590 that was pronounced just recently on July 1, 2024 most commendably in the fitness of things has very rightly dismissed an application that was seeking quashing of rape case while observing most forthrightly that there is nothing in law that can result in quashing of rape case based on forgiveness.

It must be noted that the Meghalaya High Court was hearing an application under Section 482 of the CrPC seeking quashing of FIR registered for an offence punishable under Section 376D/34 and the proceedings initiated on the basis of the said FIR.

We must also note that the Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice B Bhattacharjee while ruling explicitly in this leading case did not mince any words whatsoever to say in no uncertain terms most unequivocally that, “Whether the text of the said letter can be interpreted as the presence of consent or not requires to be decided by the Trial Court on the basis of the evidence adduced during the course of the trial. Even if it is assumed at this juncture that the survivor has forgiven the petitioners, there is nothing in law which can result in quashing of the proceeding on the basis of such forgiveness.” No denying or disputing it!  

At the very outset, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by the Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice B Bhattacharjee of Meghalaya High Court sets the ball in motion by first and foremost putting forth in the opening para that, “Heard Mr. N. Syngkon, learned Counsel appearing for the petitioner and also Mr. N.D. Chullai, learned AAG assisted by Mr. E. R. Chyne, learned GA appearing for the State-respondent.”

“This is an application under Section 482 Cr.PC filed by the petitioners seeking quashing of FIR dated 13-10-2020 filed before the Officer-in-Charge, Rynjah Police Station in Rynjah P.S Case No. 124(10) of 2020 under Section 376D/34 and the proceeding of Sessions Case No. 26 (T) 2023 initiated on the basis of the said FIR.”

On the one hand, the Bench puts forth the petitioner’s contentions in the next para of this refreshing judgment that, “Mr. N. Syngkon, learned Counsel for the petitioner draws attention of this Court to a letter dated 18-07-2022 purportedly written by the survivor in the above case addressed to the Rynjah Police Station, Shillong wherein it was stated by her that considering all the aspects of the matter and, more particularly since both the arrested persons are very young, out of her forgiveness, she did not want to proceed any further against them in connection with the aforesaid case.

The learned Counsel contends that the said letter undoubtedly proves the presence of consent of the survivor in the incident basing on which the criminal proceeding has been initiated against the petitioners. He further submits that since the survivor is a major, presence of her consent in the matter would definitely negate the charges made against the petitioners and hence this is a fit case for this Court to invoke inherent jurisdiction under Section 482 Cr.PC to quash the FIR as well as the proceeding initiated against the petitioners.”  

On the other hand, the Bench then brings out in the next para of this pragmatic judgment AAG’s contentions stating that, “Per contra, Mr. N. D. Chullai, learned AAG vehemently opposes the submission made on behalf of the petitioners and submits that it is not a fit case for issuance of notice. According to him, even if the version of the case projected by the petitioners are accepted, no case would be made out for interference by this Court under Section 482 Cr.PC at this stage.

The learned AAG submits that the contents of the letter dated 18-07 -2022 basing on which this criminal application has been filed, also does not make out a case of consent. The learned AAG refers to a decision of the Apex Court reported in (2012) 10 SCC 303, Gian Singh Vs. State of Punjah and Anr. and submits that serious offence like murder, rape, dacoity etc. or other offence of mental depravity for offence of moral turpitude under the special statute, the allegation made cannot be withdrawn. He, therefore, submits that the petition is devoid of merit and deserves to be dismissed in limine.”   

We must note that even the Delhi High Court in a most learned judgment titled Rakesh Yadav & Ors vs State of NCT of Delhi & Anr in Crl.M.C. 4677/2024 and cited in Neutral Citation No.: 2024:DHC:4835 that was reserved on 30.05.2024 and was then finally pronounced on 01.07.2024 minced just no words to state in no uncertain terms that cases related to allegations of sexual violence cannot be quashed based on monetary payments, because doing this would imply that justice is for sale.

We must note that the Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Ms Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma said most unequivocally that, “…this Court is of the opinion that criminal cases involving allegations of sexual violence cannot be quashed on the basis of monetary payments, as doing so would imply that justice is for sale.”

It would be imperative to note that the Delhi High Court made the observations while refusing to quash an FIR that was registered under Section 376 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). It was alleged that the woman in question was sexually assaulted by a man four times. The accused and the victim had met on social media.

The Delhi High Court said most unambiguously that, “This Court is of the opinion that justice in a criminal trial, particularly in a case such as the present one, serves not only as a serious example and deterrent to the accused but also as a lesson to the community as a whole. Neither the accused nor the complainant can be allowed to manipulate the criminal justice system or misuse State and judicial resources to serve their own ends. Therefore, even if the parties have reached a compromise, they cannot demand the quashing of an FIR as a matter of right.”

It would be imperative to note that the Delhi High Court made the observations while refusing to quash an FIR that was registered under Section 376 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). It was alleged that the woman in question was sexually assaulted by a man four times. No denying it. Of course, such heinous cases of crime like rape should never be allowed to be compromised under any circumstances and the accused if found guilty must be made to face the most strictest punishment as is permissible under the new penal laws in our country!    

Most significantly, we see that the Single Judge Bench of Meghalaya High Court in this progressive judgment then very rightly, rationally and robustly points out in the next para what constitutes the real cornerstone of this notable judgment stating emphatically that, “A perusal of the materials on record reveals that the FIR dated 13- 10-2020 was lodged before the Rynjah Police Station by the survivor alleging the commission of offence under Section 376D/34 IPC against the petitioners herein. Upon completion of the investigation, a chargesheet dated 24-02-2021 was filed in the matter. Consequently, the petitioners are put to face trial in the Session Case No. 26 (T) 2023 under Section 376D/34 IPC pending before the Addl. Deputy Commission (Judicial), East Khasi Hills District, Shillong.

Apparently, the trial is at early stage and the evidence of the prosecution is yet to be concluded in the matter. The petitioners also could not say as to whether the survivor has been examined by the Trial Court or not. The letter dated 18 -07 – 2022, basing on which the petitioners have sought quashing of the proceeding, indicates that the survivor conveyed her forgiveness to the petitioners and desired not to proceed any further in the matter.

Whether the text of the said letter can be interpreted as presence of consent or not requires to be decided by the Trial Court on the basis of the evidence adduced during the course of the trial. Even if it is assumed at this juncture that the survivor has forgiven the petitioners, there is nothing in law which can result in quashing of the proceeding on the basis of such forgiveness. The proposition of law laid down in the case of Gyan Singh (supra) relied on by the learned AAG, can be interpreted to say that serious offences including rape cannot be settled or withdrawn on the basis of forgiveness granted by the survivor or on the basis of any understanding arrived at between the parties.

In such a situation, the petition filed by the petitioners has no merit. The issuance of notice to the respondent No.4, the survivor, and her participation in the present matter would not lend any support to the case of the petitioners.”

For sake of clarity, the Bench then clarifies in the next para of this powerful judgment that, “It is made clear that this Court has not gone into the merits of the contention of the petitioners as to the question of presence of consent in the matter. The petitioners will have the liberty to raise the question of consent during the course of the trial before the Trial Court.”

Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding and directing in the final para of this courageous judgment that, “In view of the above, this petition has no merit and stands dismissed.”

All told, we thus see that the Meghalaya High Court has very rightly adopted zero tolerance policy for heinous rape cases and has made it absolutely clear that a rapist cannot be allowed to get away on one pretext or the other very lightly because  that sends a very wrong message in society and encourages criminal to first commit a crime and then put pressure on survivor to forgive him. It has very rightly held that rape case cannot be quashed merely because the survivor has forgiven the accused. This heinous crime of rape is not a crime against just the individual but it is a crime against the entire society and it cannot be forgiven under any circumstances!

Of course, the bottom-line of this most commendable judgment is that, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” It has been made absolutely clear that the integrity of the judicial process must be upheld. It has been also made clear that the case must be decided on its merits by examining the facts in light of natural justice for both the complainant and the accused, as well as considering the broader implications for the community and the criminal justice system. It is made crystal clear in this leading judgment that the perpetrator of the heinous crime has to face the punishment as per the law as the rape case cannot be ever quashed on any ground!

Written by:

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate, s/o Col (Retd) BPS Sirohi,

A 82, Defence Enclave, Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera, Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.

*Published as received.

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