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Tuka Ram v/s Maharashtra, AIR 1979 SC 185: A Case Analysis

Executive Summary
Sexual assault is a criminal act that carries legal consequences. Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code provides a legal definition for the offence of rape. As per the provided section, rape is defined as a non-consensual sexual act perpetrated by a male against a female without her consent. The following are the criteria that determine when a sexual intercourse, act, or conduct is legally classified as rape.
  1. The action is carried out without the consent of the woman.
  2. The action is performed without the female's consent.
  3. With proper consent, where consent is obtained by inducing immediate fear of death or injury in her or an individual in whom she has a vested interest.
  4. With the explicit consent of all parties involved, it is acknowledged that the man in question is not the individual who is legally married to the woman.
  5. In cases where consent is obtained from a female who is of unsound mind or intoxicated and therefore unable to fully comprehend the consequences of her actions, the issue of consent arises.
  6. With or without the consent of a female who is under the age of 18.
  7. When a woman is unable to effectively express her consent.
According to legal statutes, instances involving medical interventions or procedures, consensual sexual activity between a husband and wife, where the wife is of legal age (18 years or older), do not meet the criteria to be classified as rape. The exceptions that have been mentioned are subject to controversy and ongoing debate. India has experienced numerous incidents of sexual assault since the enactment and enforcement of the Indian Penal Code in 1860.

The Nirbhaya rape case is widely recognised as a deeply disturbing incident that has had a significant impact on contemporary India. The case of Tukaram & Anr v. State of Maharashtra, commonly referred to as the Mathura rape case, has a longstanding history of 50 years. This particular case has resulted in significant modifications within the realm of rape legislation under the India Penal Code. This particular case is widely regarded as one of the most flawed judgements in the annals of the Indian judiciary.

Introduction & Background
The topic of misandry is infrequently discussed in public discourse. It is often challenging for individuals to accept that men can also experience victimization. The acceptance of this evolutionary truth is not currently widespread within our legal system. The blind spot prompts us to consider the introduction of a particular concept in order to address the misconduct of a small number of individuals.

Tukaram and Others v. State of Maharashtra, also known as the Mathura Rape Case, provoked vehement and unrestrained debates, and ultimately resulted in significant reforms to India's rape laws. A little girl called Mathura was the victim of custodial rape in this case. The case's judgement, written by Justices Jaswant Singh, Kailasam, and Koshal, was widely panned for including several errors in reasoning and language, as well as being vague and misogynistic. After the work of four eminent academics, this case garnered great attention:
  • Raghunath Kelkar
  • Upendra Baxi
  • Lotika Sarkar and
  • Vasudha Dhagamwar petitioned the Chief Justice of India for a rehearing in an open letter.

Facts Of The Case
  1. Mathura, a juvenile female, resided in the company of her sibling Gama subsequent to the demise of their parental figures. Both she and Gama would be employed as manual workers at Nunshi. During her time there, she had the opportunity to interact with Ashok, who happened to be Nunshi's nephew. Both individuals formed a close bond and subsequently made the decision to enter into matrimony.
  2. On March 26, 1972, Gama filed a report at the Desai Gunj police station, claiming that Mathura had been abducted by Nunshi, her spouse Laxman, and Ashok. The aforementioned statements were documented by Head Constable Baburao at approximately 9:00 PM. Furthermore, the individual in question documented the utterances of the aforementioned pair of romantic partners. At that juncture, the clock struck 10:30 PM, prompting Baburao to request the departure of all individuals present. He specifically instructed Gama to procure a copy of the record pertaining to the birth of Mathura. Subsequently, Baburao himself departed for his residence.
  3. As the quartet was departing, Constable Ganpat extended an invitation to Mathura to accompany him indoors. Subsequently, he proceeded to lead her to the rear of the police station, where he engaged in a non-consensual sexual act by intently observing her intimate areas with the aid of a torch. After engaging in sexual activity, Head Constable Tukaram engaged in inappropriate touching of her intimate areas. The individual had the intention to commit sexual assault, however, due to being in a severely impaired state due to intoxication, their attempt was unsuccessful.
  4. Ashok, Nunshi, and Gama became apprehensive as they observed the absence of illumination emanating from the police station while they awaited Mathura's arrival. Subsequently, upon emerging from the police station, she proceeded to recount the details of the incident to the individuals present. Subsequently, she filed a complaint. Dr. Kamal Shastrakar conducted an examination of Mathura on March 27, 1972, revealing the absence of any physical injuries or indications of sexual intercourse. The analysis revealed the presence of semen on the garments worn by Mathura and Ganpat.

Facts In Issue
  1. Whether the girl's assent to the intimate encounter was given voluntarily.
  2. Whether Tukaram (appellant no.1 is liable under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code, and whether Ganpat (appellant no. 2 is liable under Section 376?

Argument Of The Appellant:
The appellant's counsel argued that:
  1. There is a lack of conclusive evidence regarding the explicit consent of the young woman in relation to the sexual intercourse in question. Therefore, it is not possible to deduce that the girl had experienced or was under any form of fear or coercion that would support the assumption of "passive submission."
  2. The reported encounter was conducted in a calm manner, and the claim of strong opposition is entirely unfounded. The claim made by the individual regarding the girl's alleged act of shouting loudly is unsubstantiated.

Argument Of The Respondent:
The counsel representing the Respondent argued that:
  1. On the 26th of March 1972, the appellants allegedly committed acts of rape and sexual assault against Mathura at the Desai Gunj Police Station. This incident occurred subsequent to Gama's complaint, in which he stated that Mathura had been kidnapped by Nunshi's family.
  2. The statements were documented by Head Constable Baburao, who instructed them to vacate the premises. However, Mathura was requested to remain by the appellant, Ganpat. Subsequently, he proceeded to escort her to the rear of the police station, where he engaged in a reprehensible act of sexual assault. This involved the perpetrator inappropriately focusing a torch on the victim's intimate areas. He proceeded to engage in non-consensual sexual activity with her, despite her firm resistance.
  3. It was also alleged that the appellant, Tukaram, engaged in inappropriate touching of her intimate areas. He had the intention to commit a sexual assault, but due to his significant level of intoxication, he was unable to carry out his plan.
  4. During the medical examination, the physician identified the presence of semen on the garments of Mathura and the appellant, Ganpat. The girl's age was estimated to be between 14 and 16 years.

The judgement rendered by the Session Court:
The presiding Sessions Judge concluded that there was insufficient evidence to establish Mathura's age as being below 16 years at the time of the incident. He additionally asserted that she was "an extremely dishonest individual" whose testimony "contains numerous falsehoods and implausible elements." He indicated that it is highly likely that she engaged in sexual intercourse with Ganpat.

He further stated that there is a significant distinction between "sexual intercourse" and "rape". Mathura engaged in consensual relations with Ganpat of her own volition. Subsequently, the individual arrived at the determination that the prosecution had not successfully demonstrated its case against the appellants.

The ruling of the High Court:
The High Court has overturned the decision made by the Sessions Court. It has been determined that the sexual intercourse was non-consensual and meets the legal definition of rape. Given that both individuals in question were unfamiliar to Mathura, it is inaccurate to assert that she would extend an invitation to the accused with the intention of fulfilling her sexual desires.

Regarding the appellant Tuka Ram, the Court determined that there was no evidence of an attempted rape. However, the Court accepted the girl's testimony that Tuka Ram had touched her intimate areas following the sexual intercourse, as alleged by the appellant Ganpat.

The High Court has rendered a verdict, convicted the appellant Tukaram and sentenced him to one year of imprisonment. Similarly, the appellant Ganpat has been convicted and sentenced to five years of imprisonment.

The judgement rendered by the Supreme Court:
The Supreme Court has overturned the judgement of the High Court, resulting in the reversal of the conviction and sentences imposed upon the appellants. This decision was made due to the girl's voluntary change in her statement. However, it raises concerns regarding the reliability of her initial statement.

Ratio Decidendi
The ratio decidendi refers to the legal principle or reasoning that forms the basis of a court's decision in a particular case. The court determined that the victim's consent was not passive in nature. Furthermore, there were no injuries sustained by the individual in question. Therefore, it was unable to determine that the young woman had experienced or was currently experiencing any form of coercion or fear that would support the assumption of her "passive submission".

Opinion And Findings
The aforementioned ruling led to the amendment of Section 114 (A) of the Indian Evidence Act. Previously, this section stated that if the victim stated the absence of consent, the court would presume that consent was not obtained for the sexual intercourse. The outcome of the judgement led to the enactment of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1983. Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code has been amended to stipulate that custodial rape is a criminal offence carrying a minimum punishment of 7 years. Additionally, the amendment ensures the protection of the identities of rape victims.

Despite the ongoing revisions to India's rape laws, there has been a consistent increase in the number of reported rape cases each year. This behavior not only inflicts substantial physical harm upon the individual affected, but it also leads to severe psychological repercussions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, recurring distressing memories, sleep disturbances, and other related symptoms.

Enhancing the safeguarding and security measures for women within the state would constitute a significant stride towards eradicating this criminal activity. There is a need for a shift in the attitudes and mentalities of individuals, particularly those in positions of authority such as the Supreme Court Judges involved in the Mathura Rape Case, rather than solely relying on strict punitive measures to address wrongdoing.

Consequences Of The Legal Matter
The ruling resulted in significant demonstrations from activists, legal professionals, and other concerned parties. There is a perceived need for robust and essential amendments to the current legislation that addresses the various shortcomings observed in the functioning of the courts.
  1. Medical Test:
    Medical evidence is deemed admissible in court pursuant to Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act, which permits the utilization of opinions from medical experts in legal proceedings. The Supreme Court, however, has concluded that due to its nature as opinion evidence, it should be regarded as a less reliable form of evidence. Medical evidence has consistently played a critical role in criminal prosecutions. The objective of this study is to establish either the culpability of the accused in a rape case or to demonstrate how such evidence can be utilized to challenge the authenticity of the plaintiff's testimony, thereby suggesting the questionable character of the alleged victim. Consequently, the offender's sentence is reduced. Consequently, provision 155(4) of the Evidence Act was repealed.

    In the case of Pratap Misra v. State of Orissa, the individual in question was identified as a "concubine" due to her involvement in a relationship with a married man and subsequently entering into a bigamous marriage with him. During her vacation with her husband, she was subjected to a sexual assault perpetrated by three individuals.

    The court, however, acquitted all three individuals based on the absence of visible injuries on the victim, leading to the inference that her consent was given. In addition, during the sexual encounter, she exhibited tears rather than vocal expressions. The victim of a gang rape experienced a miscarriage several days following the incident. The court's findings indicated that had the intercourse been forced, the miscarriage would have occurred immediately rather than after a few days.
  2. Testimony of the victim in court:
    Establishing the absence of consent can be exceptionally challenging for the victim, especially in cases involving incarcerated rape. The burden of proof lies with the victim in establishing that she was subjected to non-consensual sexual activity. However, it is important to note that the Indian Evidence Act, specifically Section 114A, has been amended to establish a presumption in cases of rape. According to this provision, if the victim denies giving consent, the court will presume that consent was not given. Consequently, the burden of proof will shift to the defendant.
The Supreme Court did not consider the precedent established by Justice Krishna Iyer in the case of Nandini Satpathy. In this case, Justice Iyer criticized the practice of summoning women to the police station and deemed it a significant violation of Section 160(1) of the CrPC.

Several significant amendments were implemented subsequent to the judgement. Notably, Section 114(A) was incorporated into the Evidence Act, stipulating that if the victim explicitly states non-consent to the sexual intercourse, the Court is obliged to presume lack of consent.

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) was amended to include Section 376(A), Section 376(B), Section 376(C), and Section 376(D), thereby establishing legal provisions to address the offence of custodial rape and impose appropriate penalties. In addition to providing a definition of custodial rape, the amendment introduced significant changes to the burden of proof, shifting it from the accuser to the accused once the occurrence of intercourse was established. Furthermore, the amendment included provisions for conducting in-camera trials, prohibiting the disclosure of the victim's identity, and imposing stricter sentences.

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