Case analysis – Tukaram and Another v. State of Maharashtra (Mathura Rape Case)

The infamous case of Tukaram and Another v. State of Maharashtra also known as Mathura Rape case sparked off urgency and uncontrolled conflicts, demanding a bigger change in the sphere of rape laws in India. This case witnessed the first custodial rape of a young girl named Mathura in India. The judgement was given by Justice Jaswant Singh, Justice Kailasam and Justice Kushal. They were highly criticized for their logic, legal and linguistic fallacies along with their ambiguous and sexist tone.

FACTS – Mathura was a young orphan girl who lived with her brother Gama. She worked as a laborer at the house of Nushi. During the course of her employment, she developed sexual relationships with the son of Nushi’s sister, Ashok. They both decided to get married. Gama filled a report on 26 March, 1972 stating that Mathura has been kidnapped. All the concerned party including Ashok, Nushi and other relatives were brought before the police station. After the statements being recorded, everyone including Mathura started walking out at about 10.30 pm. One of the appellant Ganpat asked Mathura to wait inside the Police Station. After closing the door and turning off the lights inside, he took her to washroom and raped her despite her resisting. After he was done, Tukaram, the second appellant came and caress with her private parts. He also tried to rape her but since he was heavily intoxicated, he failed.

After reuniting with her family, Mathura narrated the whole incident to them. On being medically examined, it was asserted that Mathura was under the age of 14-16 years and her hymen revealed old ruptures but there was no injury on her body. She was examined by Dr. Shastrakar on March 27. On his advice an FIR for the same was filled.

JUDGEMENT – The Session Judge acquitted the accused as he believed that this was not a rape case but of consensual sexual intercourse. The obstinacy of logic of Session Judge was evident when he implies that Mathura was habitual to sex and she herself invited Ganpat to satisfy her sexual needs. The session judge further said that Mathura had sexual intercourse with some person other than Ganpat to justify the presence of semen on her clothes. However, in justifying the semen on Ganpat’s clothes, the judge said that it was due to nightly discharges.

The Bombay High Court rightly distinguished between passive submission and consent. The court held that since the accused were strangers to Mathura and her brother had just filed a case in the same police station, the chances of her making advances on them was highly improbable. Also, they were in position of authority and any resistance to them could prove detrimental to her and her brother. The High Court held that it was a clear case of passive submission caused by the threat of injury and the Bombay High Court convicted the accused.

Finally, the case reached to Supreme Court in 1979. The SC overturned the decision of High Court and acquitted the accused. The SC agreed with the Session Judge that this was a case of consensual sexual intercourse. The SC added that since there were no marks of injury on Mathura’s body, it indicated that there was no resistance on her part and therefore she consented to sex.

EFFECT – This case stirred up great passions and resentment among the people in the society. This resulted in the Criminal Law Amendment Act being passed in 1983. This act amended Section 114(A) of the Indian Evidence Act, which stated that if the victim does not consent to sexual intercourse, then the court will presume that she did not consent. Section 376 of the IPC was also amended, making Custodial Rape an offence punishable with not less than 7 years of imprisonment. This section shifted the burden of proof from the victim to the offender, once sexual intercourse is established. This amendment also banned the publication of victim’s identities and held that rape trials should be conducted as in camera- proceedings.

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