Shri Bodhisattwa Gautam Vs Miss Subhra Chakraborty
The Shri Bodhisattwa Gautam v. Miss Subhra Chakraborty case resulted in a significant ruling in favour of rape victims. In this case, the Supreme Court rendered an important decision, determining that under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, it has the power to award damages for violations of fundamental rights, including interim damages for rape victims. As stated in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, rape is a violation of one’s fundamental right to life and personal dignity. This decision highlighted the challenges a rape victim faces and highlighted the urgent need to transform patriarchal society.
FACTS OF THE CASE
The respondent was a student at Baptist College in Kohima, where the petitioner was a teacher. On June 10th, 1989, the petitioner made his first trip to the respondent’s house in Kohima. The petitioner told the respondent that he was already in love with her during one of these visits in November 1989, which resulted in the two of them starting to date since that time.
Following this, the petitioner allegedly deceived her by making fictitious marriage promises, which led to them both having sexual relations. Every time the respondent broached the subject of marriage, the petitioner would deftly put it off, citing factors like needing to wait for his parents’ formal approval or until he found employment with the government. The petitioner’s actions were malicious and intended to trick the complainant’s innocence.
The respondent ended up being pregnant twice, first in September 1993 and then again in April 1994. This led to the respondent being concerned about their state of affairs, and she firmly insisted on getting married. On this pretext, they also got into a fight, and the petitioner consented to a secret marriage.
Even though she was in a tough situation because of her pregnancy, the respondent accepted to the covert union. At his home in Kenozou Valley, Kohima, on September 20, 1993, the accused wed the respondent in front of his God by putting Sindoor on her forehead, thereby accepting her as his legitimate wife.
The petitioner pushed the respondent to have an abortion notwithstanding her reservations to the idea of ending the pregnancy, which resulted in further abuse of the respondent. The first abortion was performed in Kohima’s Putonou Clinic in October 1993, while the second one was performed in Dimapur’s Carewell Nursing Home in April 1994. To force her to get an abortion both times, the petitioner used his parents’ refusal to accept a child before marriage as a justification. To the point of signing the consent form at the nursing home under the fictitious name “Bikash Gautam,” the petitioner went to great lengths. He used a false name, and the respondent was unaware of it until the second week of February 1995, when the respondent went to get a certified copy of the petitioner’s abortion consent document. There, she learned who he really was.
She requested that he take her with him permanently when the petitioner told the respondent that he was moving to Silchar to enrol in Cachar College, a government college. The petitioner refused to accept her as his wife, claiming that their mutually beneficial relationship and the application of vermilion to her forehead did not qualify as a legitimate marriage. She would never be accepted as his parents’ daughter-in-law, he further alleged. He mercilessly abandoned the lady despite living with her for years, and not even his friends could convince him to stay.
JUDGEMENT IN THE LOWER COURTS
In the court of Judicial Magistrate, 1st Class, Kohima, Nagaland, it was determined that the petitioner not only deceived the respondent by persuading her to cohabit with him and falsely assuring her of marriage, but also fraudulently conducted a specific marriage ceremony with knowledge that it was not a valid marriage, deceiving the complainant into believing she was his lawfully wedded wife. Furthermore, the petitioner forced the complainant to have two abortions against her will, committing the heinous crime of inducing miscarriage. He committed an outrageous act of cruelty by taking advantage of and abandoning the respondent, endangering her physical and emotional health. As a result, it was decided that the petitioner had committed crimes that were punishable by the Indian Penal Code’s sections 312, 420, 493, 496, and 498-A.
However, he asserted that the allegations against him did not make out a case and filed a petition in the Guwahati High Court under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to have the complaint and the related proceedings dismissed. This petition was denied by the High Court in its decision and decree from May 12, 1995.
The Supreme Court thereafter dismissed a Special Leave Petition that Shri Bodhisattwa Gautam had filed there. However, they made the decision to take suo motu notice of the respondent’s facts, and the Supreme Court heard the following legal Issues: –
- The primary question was whether there existed valid reasons for dismissing all legal actions taken against the defendant in Criminal Case No. 1 of 1995 held in the Court of Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Kohima.
- The secondary question was whether the Supreme Court had the authority to issue any additional directives in the case, and if such an order could compel Shri Bodhisattwa Gautam to provide interim compensation to Miss Subhra Chakraborty while the Criminal Case was still ongoing.
RULE/OBSERVATIONS OF THE SUPREME COURT
The Supreme Court has the power to issue writs in order to defend the Fundamental Rights protected by the Constitution, as stated in Article 32 of the Constitution. Fundamental rights violations may result in legal action being taken against private parties and people. In addition, the ability to file a case with the Supreme Court under Article 32 to have a fundamental right upheld is regarded as a fundamental right. The Court has broad authority under Article 32 because, as it considers a petition for the enforcement of any of the Fundamental Rights protected by Part III of the Constitution, it may find an Act to be ultra vires or beyond the authority of the legislative body. The Court may also award damages for a violation of fundamental rights.
The “Right to Life” includes the right to live with dignity, which the Court has emphasised multiple times. It does not just refer to the basic minimum of life. Therefore, it encompasses all facets of life that make it worthwhile to live.
Despite the equal status guaranteed to them by the Constitution, women in our country unfortunately belong to a social group that encounters a number of social barriers and restrictions, placing them at a disadvantage and making them susceptible to male oppression. They have a right to live a quiet and honourable life, and their dignity and honour cannot be violated or infringed upon.
Consequently, rape is a crime against society as a whole rather than just the particular victimised woman. It has the power to devastate a woman’s psychology and send her into intense emotional distress. The victim’s most prized Fundamental Right—the Right to Life—as outlined in Article 21 of the Constitution—is also violated, making it the most abhorrent crime. The Court acknowledged that, regrettably, there are a number of gaps in the current rape legislation that prevent them from adequately addressing the social components of this crime.
In the case of Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum v. Union of India, the court recognized the victim’s right to compensation and ordered that it be awarded when the criminal was found guilty, pending the Central Government’s completion of the Scheme. There is no reason to deny a court the ability to grant interim compensation, which should be covered by the Scheme, if it has the capacity to do so at the final stage of a rape case.
In accordance with the guidelines established in the aforementioned Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum case, the Court’s authority to grant interim damages should be viewed as a component of its overall rape case jurisdiction. Rape is a violation of fundamental rights to life and personal liberty, as was previously stated.
JUDGMENT BY THE COURT
The Supreme Court made the decision to uphold the Guwahati High Court’s ruling and denied to throw out the petitioner’s ongoing case before the Court of Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Kohima. The court further directed that the petitioner should pay Miss Subhra Chakraborty interim damages in the amount of Rs. 1,000 per month while Criminal Case No. 1/95 was pending in the court of Judicial Magistrate First Class, Kohima, Nagaland.
Additionally, from the time the complaint was filed until the present, he must pay any overdue compensation at the same rate. It should be highlighted that the Magistrate’s decision on the merits of the complaint will be based on the facts provided to it and the law, not the contents of the current Judgment.
ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSION
The scope of Articles 21 and 32 is highlighted by the case of Shri Bodhisattwa v. Miss Subhra Chakraborty. Our Fundamental Right to Life with Dignity is violated by rape. When handling rape cases, the criminal justice system must overcome a number of obstacles. Despite requests for harsh penalties, attention frequently diverts from the victim’s pain. Victims of rape suffer severe psychological effects as a result of this horrible event. Their capacity to build intimate relationships may suffer, and their values and behavior may change, in addition to producing enduring worries.
Furthermore, the legal process causes victims additional suffering. Therefore, it would be highly advantageous for the justice system if Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (rape) took into account the social stigma that rape victims experience as a result of such a terrible crime. To provide the sufferer with justice, one must also take into account their emotional suffering.
 Shri Bodhisattwa Gautam v Miss Subhra Chakraborty, 1996, AIR 922, 1996 SCC (1) 490
 Constitution of India, 1950, art 32
 Constitution of India, 1950, art 21
 Indian Penal Code, 1860, s 312
 Indian Penal Code, 1860, s 420
 Indian Penal Code, 1860, s 493
 Indian Penal Code, 1860, s 496
 Indian Penal Code, 1860, s 498A
 Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, s 482
 Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum v. Union of India, 1995 (1) SCC 14
 Indian Penal Code, 1860, s 375