Alwar (Rajasthan), April 12: Less than a month after he raped a German tourist, the son of a top IPS officer was today sentenced to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment in a superfast verdict that was unusual also because of the circumstances of the case.
B.H. Mohanti, 22, was found guilty of raping the 26-year-old woman at an Alwar hotel after dinner on March 20. They had checked into the hotel after arriving together from Delhi, where the MBA student had befriended the victim during a visit to the German embassy.
Women’s activists hailed the ruling. “It shows that if there is a will, a judgment can come in three weeks,” said Girija Vyas, the National Commission for Women chairperson.
But there was more to the conviction than speed ' another Rajasthan court holds the record for the fastest rape trial: 16 days.
In a rape case, the most-favoured ploy of the defence is to argue that the sex was consensual.
Mohanti’s lawyers would have found it easy to take this line ' when he was arrested on March 21, the son of Orissa’s additional director-general of police B.B. Mohanti was returning to Delhi with the victim by train.
An SMS sent by the victim immediately after the rape to a friend in Berlin led to the arrest, after the friend informed the German embassy who got in touch with police.
The victim, who had accused Mohanti’s family of threatening her to force a compromise, was not present when the verdict was pronounced today. Apart from the jail term, the rapist has also been fined Rs 10,000.
If the defence builds a case of consensual sex, the victim’s statement and a medical test are not enough to convict the accused. Further proof is asked for, which in rape cases is hard to get because there are rarely any witnesses.
“Only two per cent of rape cases in India get a judgment,” said Ranjana Kumari of the Centre for Social Research.
That the fast-track Alwar court bucked the trend and handed the conviction will be seen as a precedent, especially by women’s activists demanding punishment for marital rape.
But if the activists were happy, they also questioned why such speedy justice was not available to more people. “Is it because Rajasthan is a tourist destination and the administration wants to send a message'” asked Ranjana.
Last year, a fast-track court in Jodhpur had sentenced two rapists to life imprisonment in 16 days flat. The verdict came 21 days after the victim, also a German tourist, was assaulted by an auto-rickshaw driver and his accomplice when she was going out for dinner on May 11.
“We want that fast-track courts should be set up in special cases like those involving minor girls and old women,” Vyas said.
State governments decide on the class of cases to be handed to fast-track courts; individual cases cannot be passed on. In Delhi, for instance, all cases filed before 1999 have been given to fast-track courts to clear the backlog.
“Fast-track courts are not deciding rape cases generally. These are one in a million cases,” said Keerti Singh, an All-India Democratic Women’s Association lawyer.
Earlier this month, a Mumbai constable was found guilty of raping a 17-year-old in a police post and sentenced to 12 years’ rigorous imprisonment in a verdict that came within a year of the incident and was still hailed as swift.