Rape Survivor Writes To CJI Alleging Sessions Judge Laughed at Her During Hearing
Clarification: This post has been updated to specify that the survivor wrote to the Chief Justice after the hearing at Patiala House on 10th March.
A 22-year-old rape survivor, who is fighting a court case against her alleged rapist, ET Now anchor Varun Hiremath, wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of India saying the remarks made during the hearing by Hiremath’s counsel and the subsequent reaction of the Patiala House Sessions Court judge were insensitive and traumatizing for her. The judge’s reaction made her “deeply regret pursuing [her] complaint in the vain hope of getting justice,” she said.
The woman has alleged that Hiremath raped her at a hotel in Chanakyapuri, Delhi. She had filed an FIR against him under IPC Sections 376 (punishment of offense of rape), 342 (punishment for wrongful confinement), and 509 (word, gesture, or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman).
Judge Sanjay Khanagwal was hearing the case earlier this month, when he allegedly “laughed” with the opposing counsel over the latter’s “disparaging” remarks The woman wrote to Chief Justice S.A. Bobde on March 11, detailing the emotionally scarring court incident after the hearing at Patiala House Court on 10th March.
“During the hearing, the counsel representing the accused, one Mr. Vijay Aggarwal, repeatedly made false, gravely humiliating, and disparaging remarks against me and assassinated my character throughout the course of the hearing by slut-shaming me. All this happened in the presence of the Judge, Sh. Sanjay Khanagwal, who to my shock, instead of reprimanding Mr. Aggarwal and restraining him from doing so, laughed with him, on multiple instances,” she wrote.
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She further wrote, “I was traumatized after the rape incident, and with great difficulty I had gathered the courage to approach the Police and pursue this Complaint in order to ensure that the accused is held accountable. However, given the painful innuendos aimed at scandalizing me, and the deeply humiliating remarks aimed to sully my character made by the Counsel for the accused and the participation of the Judge, it has further aggravated my misery and trauma.”
This development comes as a surprise, particularly because of Judge Sanjay Khanagwal response to Hiremath’s bail plea last month. He had denied the accused anticipatory bail, stating that: “[One] can’t assume a woman consents to sex just because she has said yes before. … if the woman states in her evidence before the court that she did not consent, the court shall presume that she did not consent.” The ruling displayed a laudable sensitivity and commitment to women’s consent and sexual agency.
However, the woman’s letter comes in sharp contrast to that. “The course of the events yesterday has totally shaken my faith in the functioning of our criminal justice system. Sir, I deeply regret pursuing my complaint in the vain hope of getting justice,” she wrote.
This letter was sent to the Chief Justice earlier this month, a week before the Supreme Court issued a list of sensitivity guidelines that lower courts should follow while dealing with cases involving sexual violence. In response to the woman’s letter, the CJI’s office has confirmed there will be an internal inquiry on the matter.