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Tukaram v/s Maharashtra: Mathura Rape Case A Catalyst for Change in Indian Law

Radical changes were made in the area of rape laws governing India as a result of the historic case of Tukaram and Others v. State of Maharashtra, often known as the Mathura Rape Case. In this case, a young girl named Mathura was the victim of an issue known as custodial rape. Justices Jaswant Singh, Kailasam, and Koshal's judgement in this case was harshly denounced and ridiculed for its logical, legal, and language errors as well as its vague and misogynistic tone.

Facts Of The Case:
After her parents passed away, a young girl named Mathura moved in with her brother Gama. Gama and she would perform manual labour at Nunshi. She met Ashok, the nephew of Nunshi, there. They decided to be married after having an intimate relationship for some time. Gama reported Mathura's kidnapping to police station Desai Gunj on March 26, 1972, claiming Nunshi, her husband Laxman, and Ashok were responsible. Around 9:00 PM, Head Constable Baburao recorded these testimonies.

Additionally, he was the one who recorded the lovers' statements. At that point, it was 10:30 PM, and Baburao urged everyone to go while requesting that Gama bring a copy of the record describing Mathura's birth and he left for his house. Constable Ganpat urged Mathura to accompany him inside as the four of them left. Immediately after, he took her to the back of the police station and assaulted her sexually while holding a torch to her private areas.

Head Constable Tukaram fondled her privates after sating his lust. Due to his extreme intoxication, he was unable to rape her as anticipated. When they noticed that the police station's lights were off while Ashok, Nunshi, and Gama waited for Mathura outside, they were concerned. She told them about the incident when she emerged from the police station later.

She then complained to the appropriate party. Dr. Kamal Shastrakar examined Mathura on March 27, 1972, but neither injuries nor evidence of sexual activity were discovered. However, semen was found on Ganpat's and Mathura's clothing.

  1. The consent which was given freely by Mathura for sexual intercourse?
  2. Whether Tukaram shall be held liable under Section 354 of Indian Penal Code and Ganpat under Section 376 of Indian Penal Code?
Arguments By Appellant:
Regarding the nature of the girl's consent to the act of sexual intercourse, there is no concrete evidence. As a result, it was impossible to draw the conclusion that the girl had been subjected to or was under any pressure that would support the notion of "passive submission."

The supposed liaison was quiet, and the assertion that there was heavy resistance is untrue.

The girl made a bogus accusation that she had shouted out loud.

Arguments By Respondent:
On March 26, 1972, at the Desai Gunj Police Station, Mathura was sexually assaulted and raped by the appellants after Gama reported that Nunshi's family had kidnapped her. Head Constable Baburao asked them to leave the station after recording their statements. But Ganpat, the appellant, requested that Mathura remain. Immediately after, he took her to the back of the police station and assaulted her sexually while holding a torch to her private areas. She put up a strong fight, but he nonetheless raped her.

Additionally, the appellant Tukaram was happy to touch her privates. Due to his extreme intoxication, he was unable to rape her as anticipate.

During a medical examination, the doctor found semen on Mathura and appellant Ganpat's clothing.

The girl was thought to be between the ages of 14 and 16.

Session Judge

The Sessions Judge cleared the defendant because, in his opinion, "consensual sexual intercourse" rather than rape occurred in this case. His suggestion that Mathura would have encouraged Ganpat to fulfil her sexual desires because she was "habitual to sex" shows how absurd his thinking is. As a result, her agreement was not required.

He continued along this line of reasoning to support the notion that the semen found on her clothing came from her engaging in sexual activity with someone other than Ganpat.

By making this claim, the judge is indicating that Mathura was so anxious to please that she engaged in sexual activity with "someone" in the time between the incident and her medical checkup.

However, he claimed that "nightly discharges" were to blame for the semen on Ganpat's clothing. Why the Court used such gender-based double standards is puzzling.

Sexual activity with a woman under the age of 16 is considered rape in accordance with Indian Penal Code Section 375(6), whether it is done with or without her consent.

The Sessions Judge concluded that the evidence establishing Mathura's age was insufficient even after Dr. Shastrakar submitted proof showing Mathura was between the ages of 14 and 16.

High Court
The Bombay High Court correctly made a distinction between consent and passive submission. It stated that the likelihood of Mathura making advances on the accused was extremely unlikely given that they were strangers to her and that her brother had recently filed a case in the same police station.

Furthermore, they held a position of authority, so she or her brother may suffer if they refused to submit to them.

This is an obvious instance of passive acquiescence brought on by the prospect of harm. The constables' confinement of her to the police station and her quick recounting of the occurrence to her family demonstrate a clear absence of consent.

Again, the Court correctly concluded that the "lack of semen on the vaginal smears and pubic hair" was due to the fact that she was examined 20 hours after the incident, and it is likely that she took a shower in the interim.

Although the High Court correctly found the accused guilty, some portions of its decision were contradictory.

First, on the issue of Mathura's age, the Court concurred with the Sessions Judge. Why didn't they conduct a more thorough assessment of her age since both Courts were certain that Dr. Shastrakar's evaluation was inaccurate?

Secondly, the High Court observed that these two "gentlemen" were complete strangers to Mathura and it is highly unlikely that she would contact them to meet her sexual demands when it quashed the accused's acquittal. It is confusing that this Court referred to the accused as gentlemen while convicting them of rape.

Supreme Court Judge
Finally, the High Court's conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1979, leading to the accused's acquittal. The Sessions Judge and the Supreme Court both agreed that this case involved voluntary sexual contact. The Supreme Court further stated that Mathura "consented to sex" because "no marks of damage" were discovered on her body, "no resistance" was shown by her, and because she did not "raise an alert" for assistance.

First off, it is astounding that this Court equated the absence of opposition with consent.

Mathura would be helpless in front of two powerful constables, even if she tried to fight, making it impossible for "signs of harm" to be carved upon her flesh.

The Court disregarded Section 375(2), which stipulates that rape is sexual activity with a woman without her consent, even though it was read into Section 375(3) of the IPC to hold that the lady's consent was not forced upon her because she didn't object when she was taken away from her family.

Second, how the Courts are certain that Mathura did not yell for assistance is in doubt.

When Ganpat led Mathura to the restroom to be raped, the doors were always locked.

She might not have been heard even if she had cried out for assistance. It is important to ask this Court at this point what decision it would make if the victim was verbally handicap?

The Sessions Judge and the Supreme Court also concurred that Mathura was "habitual to sex" and that the entire narrative was made up to make her appear "virtuous in front of Ashok."

In this sense, "Argumentum ad Hominem" and "Hasty Generalization," two fallacies frequently seen in the English language, have been used.

This basically indicates that instead of deciding this issue on its own merits, the Court continually attacked the victim's character and reached conclusions that had no connection to its premise.

It was thought that Mathura was so promiscuous that she was unable to turn down the opportunity to have sex, even if her brother Gama, boss Nunshi, and beloved Ashok were waiting for her outside the police station.

The Court observed that since Mathura could contradict her previous testimony by changing the accused from Tukaram to Ganpat, it was conceivable that she had lied about everything else as well. Mathura's error to identify the precise appellant who had raped her also worked against her.

The fact that these men were unfamiliar to her and had never previously been in front of her or that the lights had been turned out and it might be challenging for her to see their faces properly were not taken into consideration.

The fact that Tukaram watched while Ganpat raped the young girl as if it were a pornographic movie or that he was intoxicated while on duty were also disregarded in determining the girl's fate.

The Supreme Court cleared both of the charges against them, declaring that the purported liaison was a "peaceful affair."

In the end, the appeal is successful and accepted. The High Court's decision is overturned, and the conviction against and sentences imposed on the appellants by it are annulled. Thus, the appellants are found not guilty.

People in the society became quite passionate and resentful over this case. It was necessary to establish a law that preserved the victims' human rights and dignity while also being more considerate to their feelings.

As a result, in 1983, the Criminal Law Amendment Act was passed. The Indian Evidence Statute's Section 114(A), which stated that the victim would not be presumed to have consented to sexual activity if she did not, was changed by this act.

Custodial rape is now a crime under Section 376 of the IPC, which carries a minimum sentence of 7 years in jail. Once sexual intercourse has been proven, this clause changed the burden of proof from the victim to the offender.

The amendment stipulated that rape trials should take place behind closed doors and prohibited the disclosure of victims' identities.

The judicial interpretation of these statutes has done the exact reverse of what the Parliament intended when it modified the rape legislation in order to serve justice.

While many decisions made after the 1983 Amendment Act have been effective in providing victims with justice, an equal number have been written in an absurd way, such as the Mathura Rape Case.

The investigation has shed light on the Victorian and misogynistic mindset of the Indian courts in the 70s and 80s. Even true rape victims did not receive sympathy in that community; rather, they were denigrated. Despite this, it is undesirable that the Court has a tendency to cast doubt on the victim's character while ignoring the accused. As in Mathura's case in 1972, the victim's prior sexual history was a key issue; since then, international law has improved in this area.

The rape shield law was among the modifications made in India following the Nirbhaya case under section 53A of the Indian Evidence Act. Science has made advancements in testing the psyche of victims today. Rape victims exhibit a third type of behaviour called freezing while the human brain responds to fight-or-flight circumstances.

Therefore, rape is one of the most despised crimes against fundamental human rights and it also violates the fundamental right to life that is guaranteed in Article 21 for victims. India is a nation that is prone to taboos, which may have highlighted the reason why the country's rape laws developed later than those of other nations with comparable socioeconomic standing. India must therefore consider current scientific advancements when handling rape cases.

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