The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) views with concern a regressive judgement of the Guwahati High Court. In this judgement the allegations were that an older student of IIT Guwahati “lured the female student victim/ informant” on a pretext of discussing some work and “after making her unconscious, by forcibly giving her alcohol, raped her. The victim regained consciousness the next morning at 5am…. at Guwahati medical college”.
The Court held that there is a clear prima facie case against the accused but since the investigation was complete and the accused is the “state’s future asset” and talented student, “his continued detention may not be necessary”. After recording a substantiated finding that there was no possibility of the accused tampering with the evidence or influencing witnesses, the court released the accused on a bail of Rs. 30,000.
Apart from the criminal behavior involved, the facts of the case highlight the extremely anti-women, patriarchal and regressive attitude of the accused who with sinister planning and preparation forcibly committed sexual violence on the girl with no regard to her personal autonomy and bodily integrity.
No bail should be granted just because a person belongs to a prestigious institution and is likely to be a future asset in his field. The lawyer for the victim had cited various judgments which highlighted that the heinousness should be a factor in granting bail. It is not clear from the order granting bail why the accused would not be able to influence witnesses or tamper with evidence. The bail order fails to consider the emotional and physical impact on the victim of the continuous presence of the accused on campus and the fact that the accused could pressurize the victim.
It is unnerving that while in cases of activists and journalists accused of dissent are kept in jail without bail for years, a person who has committed a heinous crime is let out so easily in a case where the minimum punishment is 10 years imprisonment. The order granting bail further adds to the impunity witnessed in cases of rape. The incident and the grant of bail will also have a chilling effect on other women students of the university who already overcome various gender biases to pursue their education and aspiration.
AIDWA believes that courts must carefully consider the heinousness of the crime and what it reflects of the perverse attitude of the accused before granting bail in matters pertaining to sexual assault and violence.