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The Mathura Case ( Sexual offence Rape Sec. 375, 376)

( Criminal Law ( Amendment ) Act, 1983 ( Mathura Act)

‘The Mathura case is also well known as Mathura rape case in India . It was a case of custodial rape in India.  Mathura, a young tribal girl, was allegedly raped by two policemen on the compound of Desaiganj Police Station in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra on 26 March 1972.

Acquittal of policemen (the accused), and the nationwide protest against the verdict led to amendments in the Indian Rape Law via The criminal law Amendment Act , 1983

Mathura was a 16 years old orphan tribal ( Adivasi )girl living with one of her two brothers. Mathura occasionally worked as a domestic helper with a woman named Nushi .She met Nushi’s nephew named Ashok who wanted to marry her, but her brother did not agree to the union and went to the local police station to lodge a complaint on 26th March 1972 , alleging that Mathura, a minor ,was kidnapped by Nushi, her husband Laxman and Ashok. The report was recorded by Head Constable. Then Ashok and his family members had brought to the police station by police authority. After general investigation, Mathura, her brother, Ashok, and his family members were permitted to go back home. As they were leaving, Mathura was asked to stay behind while her relatives were asked to wait outside.Mathura was then raped by the two policemen.Then Ganpat and Tukaram, reluctantly agreed to file a panchnama (legal recording of evidence) after threatening to burn down the police chowky by  the assembled crowd. On the hearing of the case in the sessions court, It was stated that because Mathura was ‘habituated to sexual intercourse’, her consent was voluntary; under the circumstances only sexual intercourse could be proved and not rape and the statement was also supported by medial report submitted by Dr. Kamal shastrakar. Mathura was examined by him and It was said that there were no signs that showed that the girl was forced on 1 June 1974 and the two accused police constables were acquitted.

Again on appeal, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High court set aside the judgment of the Sessions Court, and sentenced the accused to one and five years’ imprisonment respectively. saying that submission due to fear induced by serious threats could not be construed as consent or willing sexual intercourse.

However, in September 1979 the Supreme Court of India’s justices Jaswant Singh, Kailasam and Koshal in their judgement on Tukaram vs. State of Maharashtra changed the High Court decission and the accused was acquitted again. The Supreme Court held that Mathura had raised no alarm; there were no visible marks of injury on her body and it was noted  “Because she was used to sex, she might have incited the cops (they were drunk on duty) to have intercourse with her.

Aftermath the Supreme Court’s verdict: In September 1979, only a few days after the verdict was pronounced, law professors Upendra Baxi ,Raghunath Kelkar and Lotika Sarkar of Delhi University and Vasudha Dhagamwar of Pune raised a voice against the judgement writing  an open letter to the Supreme Court,. “Consent involves submission, but the converse is not necessarily true…From the facts of case, all that is established is submission, and not consent…Is the taboo against pre-marital sex so strong as to provide a license to Indian police to rape young girls.”Then there was public outcry and protests by women’s organizations who demanded a review of judgement that received extensive media coverage. “Forum Against Rape”, later renamed ” Forum Against Oppression of Women” (FAOW) A national conference was organized by FAOW which started the debate for legal reforms that highlighted the issues of violence against women and the difficulty of seeking judicial help in sexual crimes in India. The nationwide protest against the verdict led to amendments in the Indian Rape Law via’[i]

The criminal law Amendment Act , 1983

Section 375 and 376, IPC, 1860 had been substantially changed by the criminal law (Amendment) Act, 1983 (Act 43 of 1983).

some new sections were inserted by the Act

  • 376A Sexual intercourse by husband upon his wife during separation
  • 376B intercourse by public servant with woman in his custody.
  • 376 C Inter Course by superintended of jail, remand home, etc.
  • 376 D intercourse by any member of the management or staff of a hospital with any woman in that hospital
  • The Amended section 376 IPC, 1860 prescribed a minimum punishment of 7 years’ imprisonment for the offence of rape.
  • For combating the vice of custodial  rape, rape on pregnant woman,  rape on girls under 12 years of age and gang rape a minimum punishment of 10 years’ imprisonment had been made obligatory. However, for special reasons to be recorded in the judgement the court in either case could impose a sentence lesser than 7 or 10 years,  as the case may be.
  • Section 228A IPC, 1860 Disclosure as to identity of the victims of sexual offences as in sections 376, 376A, 376B, 376C and 376D IPC, 1860
  • Section 327(2)  CrPC, 1973 trial in camera
  • Section 114 A Indian Evidence Act, 1872 A presumption as to absence of consent in cases of custodial rape, rape on pregnant women and gang rape as in clauses (a), (b), (c), (d), (e) and (g) of sub – section (2) of section 376, IPC, 1860.

[i] Tukaram, 1978 CrLJ1864: AIR 1979 SC 185

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