July 3, 2010

Times of India

‘Girl need not testify to nail rapist’

Mumbai: A man can be convicted of rape, even if the victim does not testify in court during the trial, the Bombay High Court has ruled. The court’s ruling came in the infamous case of 2002 when a mentally challenged minor girl was raped by a youth in a Borivli-bound suburban train.

“Non-examination of the girl in the given circumstances will not be fatal for the prosecution case,’’ said Justice J H Bhatia. The judge observed that the victim girl was mentally challenged and was unable to express herself. The victim’s evidence, therefore, was not recorded by the trial court. “In such circumstances, merely because her evidence could not be recorded, the evidence of two eye-witnesses and other circumstantial evidence corroborating them could not be simply brushed aside or thrown away,’’ said the judge while finding Jogeshwari resident Salim Shaikh guilty of the charge of rape.

The court, though, reduced Shaikh’s jail term from 10 years to seven years, after defence advocate Arfan Sait argued that there was no justification to award a more harsh prison term than the minimum prescribed by law. “Merely because the prosecutrix (victim) in this case was mentally retarded cannot be a reason to award the sentence of imprisonment for 10 years,’’ agreed Justice Bhatia. Shaikh who has been in jail since his arrest in August 2002, has been ordered to be released by the court if he has completed his sentence.

The incident, which shocked the city, occurred on August 14, 2002, at around 1.50 am in a Borivli-bound local train. The victim was travelling in the train, when the accused raped her between Malad and Borivli. When other commuters tried to come to the aid of the victim, Shaikh reportedly threatened them and jumped out as soon as the train reached Borivli station. Two of the commuters, who were the prime witnesses in the case, approached the police to register a complaint. Shaikh was nabbed while the victim was sent to a shelter. A medical examination confirmed rape. The trial court sentenced Shaikh to 10 years rigorous imprisonment. He then filed an appeal in the high court.

Advocate Sait, who was appointed from the legal aid panel to represent Shaikh, pointed to drawbacks in the prosecution story. Sait argued that the victim had not been examined to prove the offence of rape. The advocate also raised doubts on the testimony of the witnesses arguing that even though there were number of persons in the bogie in the running train, nobody had intervened. Additional public prosecutor Madhvi Mhatre said the victim was not examined during the trial as she was mentally challenged.

“The evidence of the medical officer, particularly in respect of the girl clearly goes to show that the girl must have been ravished,’’ said the HC. The court further said the witnesses had no reason to falsely implicate the accused. “It is not the case of the accused that these two persons and the accused met earlier or that they had any grudge against him or that they wanted to punish him or take some revenge for some enmity,’’ the court said.

The HC held Shaikh guilty of rape, but agreed with defence advocate Sait that the accused could not have been convicted of outraging modesty of a woman as he had already been charged with a graver crime.

Times of India

Khaps want girls' marriageable age lowered to 15

BHIWANI: Jat Mahasabha wants marriageable age of girls and boys to be lowered to 15 and 17 respectively so that couples don't elope and marry against the wishes of their families.

According to Om Prakash Mann, Haryana president of All India Jat Mahasabha, the demand will be discussed at a sarv khap panchayat on July 17 at Meham Chaubisi Chabutara in Rohtak. The demand was raised at a meeting of khap representatives at Dhanana village.

The panchayat will be attended by representatives of around 600 khaps of all castes and communities, including Jats, Rajputs, Sainis, Gujjars and Dhanaks, Mann claimed.

Khap panchayats had no role in honour killings, Mann said. "By lowering the legal age of marriage, young couples can be prevented from eloping. A girl brings shame to her family when she runs away. Parents kill the guilty children in a fit of rage," he said.

He, however, refused to comment on early marriage posing a hurdle to the education of girls. "I am concerned about young people getting killed by their families. This should be curbed immediatelt," he said.

He is planning a campaign to make the younger generation aware of their customs and traditions. But he was opposed to making a film on khaps.

"Any film showing khaps in a poor light will face violent opposition. The government, too, should not allow this," he said.

Times of India

Premarital sex is fine, say 90% teens

If you are a teenager who’s been abandoned for eight years in boarding school, then return home to an authoritarian father and younger step-brother who doesn’t know about you, are forced to work in your father’s steel factory in Jamshedpur, give up your dream of being a writer and study engineering instead... you are going to be one rebellious teenager indeed!

That is what Anurag Kashyap, Sanjay Singh and UTV Spot Boy’s film Udaan is about. And, in a unique promo to the film which releases on July 16, the producers attempted to study the mind and world of the Indian teenager and provide him/her a platform to be heard. Here’s how...

They conducted a comprehensive online survey that got urban teenagers to reveal crucial information about their lives. Very little data is available on how adolescents are grappling with growing up issues — particularly the more taboo issues of sex, what drives them to try alcohol, smoking, lying or stealing from their parents, etc. The study, targeting internet users between 12 and 19 in Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata, ties in well with the ‘growing up pains’ theme of Udaan. It has been uploaded on surveymonkey with links on all major networking sites teenagers populate including the ‘Udaan FB page’.

And here’s a summary of the survey using 1,004 respondents (76% of them boys)... one in three teens is uncomfortable talking to their parents about stress/problems; one in three teens wants to change their study stream; one in 10 teens say they are closest to their dad; one in five teens have smoked before they turned 16; two in five teens have driven a car/bike before they reached 16; 50% of teens have kissed someone of the opposite sex; one in five teens have watched porn before they reached 13; one in two teens have watched porn before they reached 16; one in two kids steal money from their parents; one in five teens have got intimate in the school/college loo; 60% of teens want to choose a career purely of their own design; 90% of teens think premarital sex is fine.

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