New Delhi: It would be a "spectacular error" to adopt a soft approach on cases of rape or attempt to rape and there cannot be any compromise or mediation in such cases, the Supreme Court said in a stern message on Wednesday.
"When a human frame is defiled, the 'purest treasure', is lost. Dignity of a woman is a part of her non-perishable and immortal self and no one should ever think of painting it in clay. There cannot be a compromise or settlement as it would be against her honour which matters the most," a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said.
"We would like to clearly state that in a case of rape or attempt of rape, the conception of compromise under no circumstances can really be thought of.
"These are crimes against the body of a woman which is her own temple. These are offences which suffocate the breath of life and sully the reputation. And reputation, needless to emphasise, is the richest jewel one can conceive of in life. No one would allow (it) to be extinguished," the bench, which also comprised Justice Prafulla C Pant, said.
The strong remarks came as the apex court criticised a Madhya Pradesh High Court judge who was influenced by the compromise entered into between the accused Madan Lal and the parents of the seven-year-old victim and had set aside the conviction and five-year sentence for the rape.
The apex court also stressed that the courts should remain absolutely away from any "subterfuge", like the perpetrator entering into a wedlock with the victim, to adopt a soft approach in a case, as "any kind of liberal approach has to be put in the compartment of spectacular error".
The state government had appealed against the High Court verdict holding guilty the accused only for lesser offence of outraging the modesty of the minor with a restricted punishment to the period already undergone, which was slightly more than a year.
The Supreme Court bench remitted the case to the High Court for a re-appraisal of the evidence and a fresh decision, with an order that the accused will be taken into custody forthwith.
While dealing with the case, the bench said "in the instant appeal, as a reminder, though repetitive, first we shall dwell upon, in a painful manner, how some of the appellate Judges, contrary to the precedents and against the normative mandate of law, assuming a presumptuous role, have paved the path of unbelievable laconicity to deal with criminal appeals which, if we permit ourselves to say, ruptures the sense of justice and punctures the criminal justice dispensation system."
Holding that dignity of woman is "sacrosanct", the apex court said "sometimes solace is given that the perpetrator of the crime has acceded to enter into wedlock with her which is nothing but putting pressure in an adroit manner".
"...We say with emphasis that the Courts are to remain absolutely away from this subterfuge to adopt a soft approach to the case, for any kind of liberal approach has to be put in the compartment of spectacular error.
"Or to put it differently, it would be in the realm of a sanctuary of error. We are compelled to say so as such an attitude reflects lack of sensibility towards the dignity, the elan vital, of a woman.
"Any kind of liberal approach or thought of mediation in this regard is thoroughly and completely sans legal permissibility. It has to be kept in mind," the bench said referring to one of its earlier judgements.
It said the consequence of remanding the matter is that the order of the High Court stands "lancinated" and as the accused was in custody at the time of the pronouncement of the judgment by the trial court, he should be taken into custody forthwith by the concerned Superintendent of Police and thereafter the appeal before the High Court be heard afresh.
The compromise issue was not favoured in the trial court on the ground that the offence in question was "non-compoundable".