Unnao Rape Case Is More Complicated Than You Think, Here Are The Twists And Turns That May Affect Court Judgement

by Swarajya Staff - Dec 10, 2019 07:25 AM +05:30 IST
Unnao Rape Case Is More Complicated Than You Think, Here Are The Twists And Turns That May Affect Court JudgementRepresentative Image.
  • Allegations and counter-allegations have been made in the case wherein there seems to be more than what meets the eye

In a strange turn of events in the Unnao rape case where the victim was allegedly burnt to death by the five accused, it has been revealed that the victim had signed a marriage agreement with one of the accused.

ANI accessed the marriage agreement between the woman and one of the accused - Shivam Trivedi.

"We declare that we have solemnised our marriage in a temple on 15 January 2018, according to Hindu traditions with our free will. We are living with each other as wife and husband. We are signing this agreement to avoid any legal hindrance," the agreement read.

While the marriage agreement was signed in January, the rape charges were filed in March 2019. The counsel for the woman alleged that the accused was threatening the victim to withdraw the charges, and was forcing a compromise.

The original police complaint alleging rape contains only Shivam and Shubham Trivedi - both cousins - as the accused, along with the accusations of filming the act.

Reportedly, in the FIR, the woman alleged that Shivam Trivedi, son of Hindu Nagar Gram Pradhan Savitri Devi, was in a relationship with her, and had raped her on the pretext of marriage.

She alleged that Shivam took her to several cities over a month and spent time together and also signed a marriage contract on a stamp paper of Rs 50, which was also counter-signed by a notary.

She said in her complaint that Shivam later backtracked and declined to marry her in a formal ceremony, and even threatened to kill her.

She further alleged that Shivam’s cousin, Shubham, also joined him in raping her in March.

"In her FIR, the woman said that one of the two accused was in a relationship with her in 2018 but he physically exploited her, lured her with a marriage proposal. Later, he refused to get married and raped her with another friend," SK Bhagat, senior police officer from Lucknow was quoted as saying.

The two accused were released on bail in November 2019.

The rape victim, on Thursday (5 December) was found by the police in a burnt condition at Sindupur village under Bihar police station area in Unnao district.

The victim alleged that she was on her way to the railway station to go to Raebareli for a court hearing in the rape case, when five men attacked her.

The five main accused in the rape case are - Shivam Trivedi, his cousin Shubham Trivedi, his father Ram Kishore Trivedi, Shubham’s father Hari Shankar Trivedi, and Shubham’s neighbour Umesh Vajpayee.

The villagers in Sindupur reportedly saw the woman set ablaze running. She stopped at the house of a person working outside and herself made a call to 112, after which the police came. The person said that the woman herself talked on the phone.

With 90 per cent burns, the victim gave her statement to the magistrate that the five accused had beaten her, stabbed her, and then set her on fire. She was airlifted to Safdargunj hospital in Delhi for treatment, where she succumbed to her injuries.

Both the victim’s and the accused persons’ families agree that the girl and Shivam knew each other since childhood and were in a relationship.

However, the victim’s family claims that Shivam established sexual relations with the girl on the "faulty pretext of marriage" and later refused to marry her because of caste differences.

The boy belongs to the Brahmin community while the girl belonged to the Lohar community. This allegation prompted many to give a caste-colour to the case and #UnnaoHangBrahminRapists began trending on Twitter.

The victim’s family also alleged that the accused persons’ family was harassing them to withdraw the case in the past few days of the incident.

On the other hand, the accused Shivam Trivedi’s family alleges that it was the girl who was threatening the boy with false rape case.

The accused persons’ family members said that both the girl and the boy were in a consensual relationship and wanted to marry each other, but had a falling out last year. According to them, the victim filed the rape complaint to take revenge.

They also said that Shubham and Shivam were sleeping at home when the victim was set ablaze on Thursday close to 4.15 am.

A report by Gaon Connection showed the accused family’s side of the story. The family members accuse the media of biased reporting in the favour of the victim, and not bringing out their side of the story.

The family members demanded CBI investigation and said that if the accused family member is guilty, he should be given strictest punishment possible, but only after the evidence proves so.

A family member also said that they have the chats where the girl has demanded a “ransom” which they are ready to show whoever wants to see. Another member said that the victim had demanded the money through her lawyer.

One of the persons in the video stated that even the family members of the boy were ready for the marriage since the affair had been going on for three-four years and was known to everyone.

However, the boy broke-up the with the girl after he discovered the sexually-explicit chats of the girl with multiple men on Facebook. The girl had then threatened to file false rape charges if the marriage didn’t take place, the family alleged.

The family members also alleged that the girl had already made out threats of burning herself to death and blaming them if they didn’t pressure the guy into marrying her.

They also questioned why the woman walked alone two kilometres to the railway station, when she used to take the bus to go to court everyday and alleged that she had immolated herself - acting out on threats she made in the past.

Unnao SP Vikrant Veer was quoted as saying that the evidence collected so far indicates involvement of all the five accused. “The investigation will find out role of other persons in the crime,” he added.

None of the five accused have yet confessed to the crime.

What next?

Under Section 375 of IPC, if a man has sex with a woman on the false pretext of marriage, the sex will amount to rape.

By all accounts it seems clear that the accused and the victim were in a long-term relationship. The marriage agreement also shows the "promise of marriage” from the side of the accused.

In a significant judgement in 2016, the Supreme Court had stated that "sexual intercourse under total misconception cannot be treated as consent".

The apex court upheld the conviction a doctor of rape in Chhattisgarh because he had a consensual sexual relationship with a woman after he'd promised to marry her, but then went back on his word and married someone else.

However, the judges L Nageswara Rao and MR Shah also advised the trial courts to "very carefully examine whether the man actually wanted to marry the victim or had malafide motives from the start and had made a false promise only to satisfy his lust".

Therefore, if the accused can prove that he genuinely wanted to marry the victim at the time but changed his mind only later on (a break-up due to various reasons), he won’t be held guilty of committing a rape.

In a different case, the Supreme Court clarified that the prosecution must prove that the promise to marry was a promise given with no intention to honour it, and that such a promise was the only reason why a woman agreed to a sexual relationship.

However, proving one’s intentions as ‘genuine’ in a court of law is not easy.

The victim in the case has alleged that both Shivam and Shubham raped her as well as filmed the act. If the police is able to retrieve the videos corroborating her account of rape, the conviction on rape charges is almost certain.

Even if the filmed act with the second accused Shubham is found but doesn’t make it clear that he established sexual relations with the victim against her will, it would signal the malafide intentions of the prime accused Shivam to sexually exploit the girl and the earlier marriage agreement being a “false promise” to lure her, unless he gives concrete proof that the victim and him had already decided against marriage and come to an alternative arrangement with her consent.

Alternatively, if the accused is able to prove, through chats etc, that he had called off the relationship after discovering her cheating as the family members allege, then the sex wouldn’t amount to rape.

Shubham will also have to prove that either the sexual contact with the girl never happened, or happened without any lure of marriage from him or Shivam.

The fact that she made demands of money later on would be irrelevant as far as the rape charges go - unless she explicitly confesses in her chats etc to filing rape charges for revenge, and not just because he didn’t keep his promise of marrying her. The latter is a genuine ground for rape accusation as per the law.

Another aspect is the marriage agreement in which both the parties have said that they have solemnised their marriage in a temple. Although they didn’t formally register their marriage, the registration is not a necessary requirement for recognition of marriage in India. A religious marriage ceremony in India is considered to be a legal marriage.

If the accused and the victim had already married in a temple with certain rituals like exchange of garlands, sindurdaan, mangalsutra etc, the marriage stands. In this case, victim could have gone to the court with the proof of the marriage and asked for her legal rights as a wife (such as maintenance, cohabitation etc) with the accused.

However, if the pair was already married, the rape charges on the prime accused Shivam Trivedi don’t stand as Section 375 doesn’t recognise marital rape. However, the accused can still be prosecuted for domestic violence and cruelty towards the spouse for forcing the victim to have relations with him/his brother on the pretext of recognition as a wife in front of society and family.

The second case pertains to attacking the victim and setting her on fire.

The accused allege that they were at home sleeping when the said incident took place. The police is carrying out the investigation.

The motive is already there. Verifying alibis, recovery of the murder weapons - the knife she was stabbed with, the gasoline poured on her, DNA samples from her body as well as other objects at the crime scene, and eye-witness accounts, if any, will make clear what exactly happened. The stab wounds, with proper forensics, can be detected if they are self-inflicted.

In today’s times, when social media has gripped even the farthest corner of the country, evidence can be gathered from Facebook, chats etc.

The heinous crime - public pressure as well as the law in favour of strong punishment, low conviction rate, and slow judicial process means accused, if guilty, have no incentive to confess in return of a more favourable sentence, and the case will most likely go up to the Supreme Court.

If found guilty of aggravated assault due to which the victim died, as well as committing rape, the two accused might receive a death penalty.

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