Poverty no reason to reduce punishment for rape: High Court

Under section 376 of Indian Penal Code, minimum punishment for rape is seven years's rigorous imprisonment, and a judge can give a lesser sentence for "adequate and special reasons".

But socio-economic status of accused is irrelevant for this purpose, Justice A P Bhangale of Nagpur bench of High Court said in a ruling last week.

Satinath Raut, a labourer, was accused of raping a 22-year-old woman at his village Warthi, in Bhandara district.

Raut entered her house when there was nobody else at home except for her 3-year-old daughter, and raped the woman at knife-point.

Sessions court in Bhandara awarded him seven years' imprisonment in February 2007.
In the appeal before the High Court, he pleaded that he had a large family --- five children and an ailing mother-- therefore the sentence may be reduced.

Sessions court could have been more lenient with him on this ground, his lawyer argued.
But upholding the sentence, Justice Bhangale said in his judgement that "socio-economic status of the accused or his religion, caste, creed are irrelevant factors", as per Supreme Court's earlier rulings.

"His socio-economic status cannot constitute 'adequate and special reason'. Punishment which is to be imposed upon the convict has to be proportionate to the crime committed. The Court has to bear in mind the society's cry for justice," the judge said.

Justice Bhangale however added that "it might have been otherwise, had the victim herself come forward with an affidavit (asking the court) to forgive the appellant and to pray for lenient sentence for him".

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