The HC passed these orders while allowing the bail plea of the three convicts -Hardik Sikri, Karan Chabra and Vikas Garg -till the pendency of their appeal against conviction.
The HC division bench also ordered counselling of the trio at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) “for correcting their behavioural aberration“.
The bench directed that all the three convicts would be subjected to counselling by a trained AIIMS psychiatrist and “a report in that regard must be communicated to the HC indicating whether the applicants are free of their voyeuristic tendencies“. The court has also directed the three to pay Rs 10 lakh compensation, to be shared equally by them, to the survivor.
While challenging the orders, the counsel for the accused had argued that the girl’s testimony did not reveal that she was being subjected to a traumatic blackmail, rather, she came across as willing and compliant.
However, the division bench of Justice Mahesh Grover and Justice Raj Shekhar Atri, observed: “We are conscious of the fact that allegations of the victim regarding her being threatened into submission and blackmail lends sufficient diabolism to the offence, but a careful examination of her statement again offers an alternate conclusion of misad venture stemming from a promiscuous attitude and a voyeuristic mind.“
The bench went on to observe, “She states that `he (one of the accused, Hardik) then sent his own nude pictures and coaxed me into sending my own nude pictures’. The perverse streak in both is also revealed from her admission that a sex toy was suggested by Hardik and her acceptance of the same.“
The high court also observed that the testimony of the victim “does offer an alternate story of casual relationship with her friends, acquaintances, adventurism and experimentation in sexual encounters and these factors would therefore, offer a compelling reasons to consider the prayer for suspension of sentence favourably particularly when the accused themselves are young and the nar rative does not throw up gut wrenching violence, that normally precede or accompany such incidents.“
It said: “It would be a travesty if these young minds are confined to jail for an inordinate long period which would deprive them of their education, opportunity to redeem themselves and be a part of the society as normal beings“. The girl had lodged a complaint with the university on April 11, 2015, alleging the trio, final year law students of the same institition, had been blackmailing and raping her since August 2013. She alleged the accused had her objectionable photos which they used to force her to have physical relations with them.
In March this year, a Sonipat court had awarded a 20year sentence to Hardik and Karan each and a seven-year jail term to Vikas.
The court order in this case exhibits victim shaming of the worst kind. Defence counsel in rape cases often try and paint the victim as a person of loose morals. It is most unfortunate that a high court has stigmatised a victim in a similar manner.The Supreme Court has in the past said that victims of sexual crimes should not be stigmatised for their perceived morality and that a woman has the right to refuse consent to sex even if she has been promiscuous. That is as it should be. We wish the court had shown at least as much sensitivity towards the victim in this case as it has towards the accused.