‘Section 375’ Raises Questions Which Many Are Afraid To Ask

‘Section 375’ Raises Questions Which Many Are Afraid To Ask

by Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj - Thursday, September 19, 2019 04:31 PM IST
‘Section 375’ Raises Questions Which Many Are Afraid To Ask Actors Richa Chadha and Akshaye Khanna in a courtroom scene from the film.
  • Justice is blind. And neutral.

    The message of ‘Section 375’ is that it’s best it stays that way.

In May 2019, Rajasthan Police admitted that even though the rape cases in the state were on the rise but rape crime rate (rape every 100,000 people) was lower than that in many developed countries such as Sweden and the US.

In an official affidavit filed in the Rajasthan High Court, the state government said according to Rajasthan Police, 43 per cent of rape cases in 2018 turned out to be false during investigation.

A six-month long investigation done by The Hindu in 2016, analysing about 600 cases that came before six district courts in Delhi, revealed that one third of all the cases heard during one year dealt with consenting couples where girl’s parents accused the boy of rape.

A good 25 per cent of the cases analysed were "rape on false promise of marriage".

Following the ghastly Nirbhaya case in 2012 and since the Criminal Law Amendment Act came into force in 2013, overhauling laws dealing with rape, there have been reports emerging from various quarters that stringent rape laws are being misused or people are taking advantage of them to settle personal scores, commit extortion, or seek revenge.

There have been several cases where organised rackets have been exposed by police that targeted men through honey-traps and then implicated them in false rape cases or threatened them with the same, demanding huge money in return.

Some of these rackets involved police officers and even high court lawyers. Many incidents have come to light where men accused in a false rape case have committed suicide.

There's no iota of doubt at the same time that we continue to hear of brutal rape cases of young girls and women on a daily basis and feel extremely helpless.

In such a scenario, Section 375 is a film that was much needed, that throws light on ordeals and struggles of both the sides, and raises pertinent questions around consent, justice and law.

The biggest question that the film raises is around consent. Bollywood has tackled this subject before where Amitabh Bachchan in his strong baritone in movie Pink taught the men of this country how "a no means no" and how it's the ultimate benchmark to understand consent of a woman.

Section 375 in my personal opinion raises questions around those scenarios when a woman says 'yes' but retrospectively calls it a 'no' and reports it as rape.

The film revolves around four main characters. A young designer, Anjali Dangle, who says she was raped by an influential and powerful director Rahul Khurana, and their respective lawyers Hiral Gandhi and Tarun Saluja, who battle the case out in high court.

We are shown from the beginning how Khurana ravished Anjali Dangle. How the reporting of the crime felt like another crime upon her because of the humiliating procedures and courtroom trial. In the end, the full case eventually unravels.

The film makes absolutely no mistakes bringing forth statistics, legal conundrums, ambitions and passions that drive these battles and the human lives that are entangled around them.

It doesn't take a stand on either side. It lets the audience decide and ponder over the case.

While the film ends with the prosecution lawyer, Richa Chadha, fighting for the girl saying "justice wasn't done" it leaves people befuddled with the defence lawyer Akshaye Khanna claiming they are in the business of law and not justice.

As one walks out of the theatre, there are pertinent questions.

Is the law fair?

Is the quantum of punishment fair?

Is it justice to presume that a woman can never lie about consent?

Are our investigation procedures harsh on a rape victim?

Can legal loopholes allow a real culprit to go free or end life of an innocent person?

Do the court verdicts rely on merits of a case or merits of the lawyer fighting that case?

Does a woman lose her own sexual agency for the mere fact that the person making advances at her is powerful?

Can an informed choice to have sex for progress in career be later called rape?

If a man says he is unhappy in his marriage and then a woman establishes a relationship with him, expecting that he would marry her, even though he makes no such promise, can it be called sexual assault?

Can a woman become so vindictive that she self harms and plots a conspiracy such as a charge of rape to even the emotional pain a man has caused to her?

As I think of the last question, I recall a sting operation done by news channel India TV way back in 2008 or 2009 where they secretly recorded agents outside a government hospital who would inflict fake injuries on women and help them get a medical certificate to file either a false domestic violence case or a false rape case.

Price for certificate for a false 498A case was Rs 5,000 and price of certificate for a false rape case was much higher.

One of their female reporters in fact went till the extent of getting these injuries inflicted, got a medical certificate made and stopped short before filing a police complaint.

The agents kept pestering her to file the case but her job was already done.

Our society remains unaware of such agents and such rackets and men who become victims of such ploys.

A lot of dialogues, facts, statistics presented in the film may be unsettling for many. Especially those told by Akshaye Khanna whose character is defending a rape accused.

The reason behind the same is the apathy of the media and society to know the other side of the story, to know the person behind an accused.

As someone working on bringing to light real life stories where false rape accusations have destroyed lives, through my documentary film India's Sons, I can vouch for and absolutely applaud the honesty and integrity of Section 375 writer Manish Gupta.

He wrote on Twitter about how he spent three years researching on this subject and wrote 29 drafts before the final version. The same shows in each and every sentence uttered in the film.

Anyone who will visit our courts and police stations will understand the ground realities. I am glad that Manish Gupta, Ajay Bahl and team Section 375 dared to touch upon this subject and make the film that they did.

Life isn't black and white. Section 375 bring to us the confusions, the contradictions, the grays of real life. It's beauty lies in the balance it brings. It is commendable that a mainstream film has tread on this.

Blind belief and judicial amendments with a notion that one gender can never lie isn't a fair presumption. When those presumptions become laws people are bound to raise questions.

Section 375 raises those questions. Beautifully. Humanely. Powerfully.

If you haven't, please go and watch the film.

Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj is an independent journalist and a documentary filmmaker based in Gurgaon

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