New Delhi, Apr 28 (ILNS) The Supreme Court has upheld the conviction and sentence of life imprisonment of an accused, stating that the nature and gravity of the offence is serious enough from the fact that an offence of rape is committed over a visually-disabled woman belonging to the Scheduled Caste.
The Bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice M R Shah yesterday upheld the order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, stating that the imposition of a sentence of imprisonment for life cannot be faulted.
On August 3, 2019, the High Court had convicted the accused under Section 376(1) of the Indian Penal Code, Section 3(2)(v) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, with a fine of Rs 1,000.
However, the apex court set aside the conviction and sentence of the appellant under Section 3(2)(v) of the SC and ST Act, stating that there is no evidence to prove that the accused has performed the alleged offence with a specific intention of committing that act against the person belonging to the SC or ST category.
According to the victim, the accused was a friend of her brothers and also worked with them. He used to live in the same village and regularly visited their house. On the day of the incident, the accused came to the house of the victim and finding her alone, committed the offence.
After the girl raised an alarm, the father and brothers of the victim rushed towards home, caught hold of the accused and handed him over to the police.
The apex court held, “The experience of rape induces trauma and horror for any woman, regardless of her social position in the society. But the experiences of assault are different in the case of a woman, who belongs to a Scheduled Caste community and has a disability because the assault is a result of the interlocking of different relationships of power at play.
“When the identity of a woman intersects with, inter alia, her caste, class, religion, disability and sexual orientation, she may face violence and discrimination due to two or more grounds. Transwomen may face violence on account of their heterodox gender identity. In such a situation, it becomes imperative to use an intersectional lens to evaluate how multiple sources of oppression operate cumulatively to produce a specific experience of subordination for a blind Scheduled Caste woman,” it observed.
The Bench further mentioned the term ‘intersectionality,’ which was coined by Kimberly Crenshaw and held, “Intersectionality merely urges us to have an open-textured legal approach that would examine underlying structures of inequality. This requires us to analyse law in its social and economic context, allowing us to formulate questions of equality as that of ‘power and powerlessness,’ instead of difference and sameness.
“Intersectional analysis requires an exposition of reality that corresponds more accurately with how social inequalities are experienced. Such contextualised judicial reasoning is not an anathema to judicial inquiry,” it added.
Talking over the Disability and Gender, the Court named it ‘twin tales of Societal Oppression’. “For many disabled women and girls in India, the threat of violence is an all too-familiar fixture of their lives, contracting their constitutionally guaranteed freedom to move freely and curtailing their ability to lead full and active lives. This threat of violence can translate into a nagging feeling of powerlessness and lack of control, making the realisation of the promises held by Parts III and IV of our Constitution a remote possibility for women with disabilities,” it added.
“We do not mean to subscribe to the stereotype that persons with disabilities are weak and helpless, incapable of charting the course of their lives or to deprive them of the agency and bodily autonomy that we all possess and are entitled to exercise. Instead, our aim is to highlight the increased vulnerability and reliance on others that is occasioned by having a disability, which makes women with disabilities more susceptible to being at the receiving end of sexual violence,” the Bench noted.
On the question raised by the defence to cast doubt on the testimony of the prosecutrix by arguing that she would have been unable to identify the accused due to her disability by defence in the High Court, the Court answered, “Though there have been instances where the testimony of a disabled prosecutrix has not been considered seriously, but we are of the considered view that presumptions of such nature, which construe disability as an incapacity to participate in the legal process, reflect not only an inadequate understanding of how disability operates, but may also result in a miscarriage of justice through a devaluation of crucial testimonies given by persons with disabilities.” ILNS/DVY/RJ