Priyadarshini Mattoo Case : An analysis

    The crime rate in India has seen an upward trajectory in the last two to three decades. Rapes and murders have become common occurrences . It is painful to know that  a country like India, full of diverse culture and tradition, rituals and customs, where women deities are worshipped by millions of devotees, have a whopping number of serious offences against females this is what happens in this Priyadarshani Mattoo case. The main reason behind this is the deep rooted patriarchal system of the society, illiteracy, gender discrimination, increased use of drugs and alcoholism. The government has enacted and implemented several legislations to protect women from violence, however the loopholes in laws have helped the hike in the number of cases instead of reducing it

    Equivalent Citation: 2010 9SCC 747

    Introduction 

    After seeing the number of crimes committed against women, any person of general prudence might ask-what happens if the people having dignified positions in legislative, executive and judiciary are themselves responsible and corrupt for heinous crimes? This incompetency in fulfilling their duties towards its citizens is not acceptable. Though the system of Indian judiciary is based on morale, value and rituals of Indian Society, it has a number of loopholes which contributed to the growth of number of crimes. 

    Santosh Kumar Singh v. State through CBI[1] is one of the cases that highlights the terrible state of our justice system. Indian judiciary is supposed to punish the offenders/lawbreakers, however in this case, the judiciary knowingly or unknowingly saved the perpetrators for a considerable amount of time. The formal legal system in India bears fear in the minds of Indian women. Most crimes committed on women go unrecognized due to fear of police, corruption, political pressure and caste bearings. Women continue to bear atrocities at home to keep their family intact. Police often fail to register complaints on domestic violence and often treat it as a family matter. In rape cases, the condition of women is worst in such way that it degrades and humiliates her to register the cases and go through the trial process at court. Most witnesses become hostile in such cases due to long periods, or threat, monetary benefits are offered by the accused. Several times the court becomes insensitive since all crimes against women must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. So this creates fear in women to approach the formal legal system . This is an intriguing case where again justice bowed down before the rich and persuasive lot of the society. The root cause of this problem started with the fearless mindset of somebody who belongs to the family of a minister and higher officials. 

    Background

    Victim

    1.   Priyadarshini Mattoo, was the daughter of C.L. Mattoo and Rajeshwari Mattoo.
    2. She was then a 25 year old law student who hailed from Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir (then) to Jammu and later moved to Delhi for her LL.B course at campus Law Centre, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi. She was in the batch 1993-1996.
    3.   She was a resident of B-10/7098, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi.

    https://legalreadings.com/vishakha-and-ors-v-state-of-rajasthan-case-analysis/

    Accused

    1. Santosh Kumar Singh, was the son of former senior IPS Officer JP Singh.
    2. JP Singh was the then Inspector General of Police in Pondicherry in the course of the trial he served as Joint Commissioner of Police in Delhi, where the crime had been committed
    3. He was Priyadarshini Mattoo’s senior in LL.B course at campus Law Centre, Faculty. He passed out in December,1994.

    Santosh Kumar Singh, her senior in college, had been stalking and harassing her for quite a few years. In 1995, Priyadarshini Mattoo had lodged a number of complaints against Santosh Singh for harassing, intimidating and stalking her. She had been provided with a personal security officer at the time. An FIR lodged by Maurice Nagar Police Station against Santosh under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. He was under arrest, however subsequently he was released on individual bond. In retaliation, Santosh had lodged a complaint with the university alleging that she was pursuing two degrees simultaneously. However, it turned out that Priyadarshini Mattoo had passed M.Com in 1991 and the complaint was merely malicious. 

    Charges Involved

    1. Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
    2. Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

    Facts  

    A 25 year old girl named Priyadarshini Mattoo who was a law student in Delhi University batch of 1993 – 1996, became the prey in the hands of the accused. She was alone in the house when the accused entered the home. She was found raped and murdered under her double bed in the pool of blood on 23rd January 1996 at her residence. Her body had a number of injuries and her face was smashed by a motorcycle helmet, which made the face unrecognizable. Lastly, she was strangled with an electric wire heater. Her parents suspected Santosh for this heinous crime because he used to annoy her a lot. Her father had requested to hand over the case to CBI because Santosh’s father was the then joint commissioner at Delhi police and had political connections too.

    Issues

    Issue-A : Can Police be liable for not recording the prime witness ?

    Issue-B: Whether DNA fingerprinting test conclusively establishes the guilt of the accused?

    Issue-C: Whether guilt of the accused and the circumstantial evidence can be proved beyond reasonable doubt he has to be convicted for the offence committed?

    Judgment

    “Though I know he is the man who committed the crime, I acquit him, giving him the benefit of doubt”.

    This shocking statement of the Additional Session Judge G.P. Thareja, is sufficient to explain that justice is not with honest people but with a high profile and influential personality. Evidence clearly showed that Santosh had killed Priyadarshini Mattoo. However, due to the powerful position of his father and himself, everything was denied by the judges. The trial court held that CBI has produced fabricated DNA fingerprinting reports, which are inadmissible in the eyes of law and evidence is adduced in unfair manner, giving Santosh the benefit of doubt.

    CBI filed an appeal in the Delhi High Court, as the judgement of the Sessions Court was not justifiable. The Delhi High Court observed that ‘the DNA sample produced by CBI is enough to show the guilt of the accused.’ The High Court too was shocked at G.P. Thareja’s verdict. It said, “by acquitting the respondent despite being convinced that there was no doubt in the prosecution case, the trial court has mauled justice, and its decision has shocked the judicial conscience of the court.”[2] On October 30, 2006 the Delhi High Court convicted the accused for the offences punishable under Sections 302 and 376 of Indian Penal Code and sentenced him to death.

    Santosh Kumar Singh filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of India against his death punishment. On 6th October, 2010, after 14 long years, Justice H.S. Bedi and C.K. Prasad held that death punishment is awarded to “rarest of the rare” case, and this case does not fall into this category and hence Hon’ble Court commuted his death punishment to imprisonment for life. 

    Reason and Analysis

    This case was won by the struggle of a father who fought every day for his daughter. This case showed a positive aspect of the media trial, where it created pressure on the High Court to give justice to the family of Priyadarshini Mattoo. 

    This case explicitly showed the unkind nature of the judiciary, and proved that there is nothing in this world that does not have value, even justice is sold at a cost of acquittal of culprits.

    There was no doubt that this was a brutal rape and murder case, and the only reason that crime was carried out against the deceased was that she rejected the proposal offered by the accused. It was a daylight crime that took place at her residence. This clearly shows that women in India are not safe at all. The accused was not held guilty by trial court because the accused’s father was an influential personality and had several connections with politicians. Is that the type of justice we talk about? The answer is NO. After losing their daughter, the parents only demanded justice before Hon’ble Court, but they received disappointment when the Court commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment. After conviction, the accused was sentenced only for 4 year behind the bars. Later on in 2011, he was granted parole, and recently again he came out on parole for 3 weeks to write his LLM examination. Surely, we are not asking for this justice. If we want to stop this kind of gruesome crime, the pillars of India must act strictly in its own way before every citizen. Back then there was no punishment like death sentence for rape, however in 2013 it was added via Nirbhaya case.

    The judiciary is populated by judges who are human, and being human they are occasionally motivated by considerations other than an objective view of law and justice. But the Courts cannot afford to award judgments based on ethical and moral grounds, rather the bases should be purely legal in character. The role of a judge is not to read between lines but to offer a fair, just and reasonable interpretation of the question of law posed before it. “Justice may not only be done but it must also seem to be done.” Thus, the judiciary as a fillip to the nation must strive to deliver justice in all circumstances without any fear, favour, affection or ill will.

    References:

    [1] (2010) 9SCC 747.

    [2] Richa Shrivastav, “Case Comment on Priyadarshini Mattoo case”, available at :http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/644/Case-Comment-on-Priyadarshini-Matoo-case.html (last visited on January 25th, 2021).


    BY SAUMYA SINHA | ICFAI LAW SCHOOL, DEHRADUN

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