A rapist in Maharashtra has an 81% chance at acquittal, and here are some reasons why. The rape is only the beginning of a long process of a women being robbed of her voice, her volition and her agency.
After a case is registered, she is taken to a registered medical practitioner for medical examination. Under Section 164 A of the CrPC, the consent of the victim is necessary before she is examined. In many cases, the victims are minors or have been brutalised to such an extent that they are in no physical or mental state to give any kind of consent. Often, the police mechanically make the decision, with little or no involvement of the victim or her kin.
When the trial finally starts, the woman’s voice is filtered, if not muted, by that of the public prosecutor appointed by the state. Though a complainant can hire a private lawyer to assist the prosecution, this lawyer cannot argue before the court — he can only submit written arguments after evidence is closed, that too with the permission of the court. Few rape victims can afford the luxury of an independent lawyer, besides the one the state provides to them.
The incompetence and apathy of public prosecutors would require a column by itself. Compared to the well-paid defence lawyers, the public prosecutor’s fee is meagre, at best. Prosecutors helping accused persons by watering down the contents of the chargesheet in exchange for a bribe? It’s been known to happen.
In this cacophanous melee, the woman’s voice, and the truth behind it, is lost, buried in mounds of files, medical reports and paperwork. And then, the rapist walks free.