No Means No, Immaterial of Woman’s ‘Character’: SC’s All-Women Bench Delivers Landmark Judgement

A woman of “easy virtue” also could not be raped by a person for that reason, the bench added.

When did a ‘NO’ become a ‘Maybe’ or even a ‘Yes’?

Justice R Banumathi and Justice Indira Banerjee have yet again reiterated an order they passed in Delhi v Pankaj Chaudhary and Others, that when a woman says no, it is a no, and that there cannot be any ambiguity in her refusal.

In delivering this order, the SC has reversed the High Court’s acquittal order and restored the trial court’s conviction and sentencing.

The case in point

On July 28, 1997, Pankaj Chaudhary, his brother Gunjesh, and two of their friends, allegedly entered the house of the prosecutrix and demanded a bidi. When she refused to give them any, they started demanding some water.

She refused that as well, following which, the four men switched off the electrical supply to the jhuggi and caught hold of her hand.

They then proceeded to rape her one by one.

It was submitted by the prosecutrix that she tried to raise an alarm, but after a while, she fell unconscious.

She was rushed to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences hospital (AIIMS) by her mother. The doctor, after examining her, submitted a report following which, a charge sheet was filed.

Justice Banumathi
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It was the contention of the four alleged rapists that the prosecutrix was of “loose” character and indulged in prostitution.

The trial court, however, convicted the accused under Section 376(2)(g) of the IPC and sentenced each of them to undergo rigorous imprisonment for ten years.

However, the High Court subsequently overturned this order. The HC allowed the appeal of the accused and set aside their conviction on the ground that the rape survivor was in custody with the police for prostitution during the time that the rape was alleged to have taken place.

The current order

The bench held, “Even in cases where there is some material to show that the victim was habituated to sexual intercourse, no inference like the victim being a woman of ‘loose moral character’ is permissible to be drawn from that circumstance alone.”

A woman of “easy virtue” also could not be raped by a person for that reason, the bench added.

Justice Indira Banerjee
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The entire order can be accessed here.

In this time of #metoo, this order only helps to reiterate that when a woman says no, then ‘no’ is what it means. It is high time that we acknowledge and accept the consent of the woman.

(Edited by Shruti Singhal)

Cover Photo

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