23 Dec 2009

Woman cannot be prosecuted for crime of rape: Supreme Court

Giving a literal meaning to the offence of 'rape' provided for under Section 375 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code, the Supreme Court has declared that a woman cannot be prosecuted for a crime of rape. The Supreme Court declared as under;

7. A bare reading of Section 375 makes the position clear that rape can be committed only by a man. The section itself provides as to when a man can be said to have committed rape. Section 376(2) makes certain categories of serious cases of rape as enumerated therein attract more severe punishment. One of them relates to "gang rape". The language of subsection (2)(g) provides that "whoever commits `gang rape" shall be punished etc. The Explanation only clarifies that when a woman is raped by one or more in a group of persons acting in furtherance of their common intention each such person shall be deemed to have committed gang rape within this subsection (2). That cannot make a woman guilty of committing rape. This is conceptually inconceivable. The Explanation only indicates that when one or more persons act in furtherance of their common intention to rape a woman, each person of the group shall be deemed to have committed gang rape. By operation of the deeming provision, a person who has not actually committed rape is deemed to have committed rape even if only one of the group in furtherance of the common intention has committed rape. "Common intention" is dealt with in Section 34 IPC and provides that when a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it was done by him alone. "Common intention" denotes action in concert and necessarily postulates a prearranged plan, a prior meeting of minds and an element of participation in action. The acts may be different and vary in character, but must be actuated by the same common intention, which is different from same intention or similar intention. The sine qua non for bringing in application of Section 34 IPC that the act must be done in furtherance of the common intention to do a criminal act. The expression "in furtherance of their common intention" as appearing in the Explanation to Section 376(2) relates to intention to commit rape. A woman cannot be said to have an intention to commit rape. Therefore, the counsel for the appellant is right in her submission that the appellant cannot be prosecuted for alleged commission of the offence punishable under Section 376(2)(g).

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