Indecent Proposal
By Maxwell Pereira
maxpk@vsnl.com


It was the morning of September 7, 2003 when we were informed at Anand Vihar Police Stattion by Dr Rajan, on duty at the Shanthi Mukund Hospital in East Delhi, that a private nurse engaged to look after a comatose deaf and dumb 70-year old patient, had been raped and assaulted by the hospital auxiliary help, sweeper Bhura. The police registered a case on the statement of ward boy, Vyas Sharma, who following his nose on sighting bloodstains on the floor outside a bolted toilet door, had stumbled on to the victim inside. The girl had injuries on her face, and managed to tell the rescuer that she had been sexually assaulted.

Later in her statement, the victim gave details. That sweeper Bhura had tried to outrage her modesty while she was sleeping on a bench in the old patient’s room, and on her threatening to report against him, he had thrashed her mercilessly, tried to throttle her and raped her. When she regained consciousness she had found herself in the toilet with the door bolted from the outside.

For reasons of their own, the Shanti Mukund Nursing Home referred the victim to GTB Hospital for further treatment, even as the police lost no time in arresting the accused. A thorough investigation was also ensured, ‘midst all the accompanying public fury and the connected media, politician, government and women’s groups interventions, that any such case would naturally attract. And, apart from associating a lady police officer with the investigation of the case right from inception, the police also pressed into service its area Rape Crisis Intervention machinery through NGOs Pratidhi and Swanchetan, to counsel and provide possible succour to the victim and her family in the given circumstances.

Within four days of the incident, the victim’s right eye damaged during the assault, developed complications – ending up with the attending doctors completely removing it and further adding to the trauma. This led to more furore with allegations of medical negligence.

On the recommendation of the National Commission for Women, an inquiry committee was constituted then by the DelhiGovernment to look into the procedural and the medical lapses on the part of the hospitals involved. This medical board appointed by the Director Health Services was tasked to ascertain whether adequate and appropriate treatment was provided by both hospitals to the victim, whether there was any lapse or negligence on the part of the attending doctors or in providing treatment, and whether there was any lapse in providing the required security to the private Keralite nurse at Shanti Mukund. In its findings, the Board indicted the hospitals and many individual doctors severly for their role in the entire episode – but it is not known what action followed thereon.

An elaborate exercise was also undertaken all over, to evaluate the safety of nurses working in different hospitals generally, so that recurrence of such incidents could be avoided. The public outcry and the media attention attracted, necessarily made those in authority, the elected representatives and prominent party big-wigs and similar, to jump in the fray and join the bandwagon to say their bit, show their face, or make their presence felt.

Which also prompted some of these worthies, including the government, to declare sizeable compensation packages to the victim. But amidst all, one witnessed some other unsavoury human facets as well. Much as the case deserved sympathy and empathy for the sheer heinous nature of the assault, the mental trauma and agony suffered over the rape and the loss of an eye, there was no derth of drama and intrigue too on the part of whoever that could provide it, including the victim’s family who were not at all bereft of their own machinations or deftness at handling the matter.

Over time, the Shanti Mukund rape case slipped from public mind, as other rapes and more issues edged out the presence of its memory from one’s mind. All the while, the criminal case progressed. The charge-sheet had been filed and the trial went on. The police ensured that the witnesses deposed, and the prosecution did its job of conducting the trial. The case got the attention of the special fast track courts constituted by the Delhi Hight Court to try some sensational cases in the public eye with a view to ensure speedy justice. Till one day recently, the case burst on to the screen yet again with a bang – with Bhura’s conviction on judgement day.

This infamous case though, will not now be erased from public memory that easily. It will go into the annals of history, not just for the conviction, but for the attrocious and preposterous offer of the accused expressing condescendinly his willingness to marry the victim – made to the court on sentencing day before it could pronounce the sentence. It will be remembered for the manner in which the presiding authority of the court in turn, referred this indecent proposal to the victim prosecutrix for her consideration, justifying its act with the explanation that it was open to the prosecution to oppose the proposal and seek its dismissal. This shocking remembrance, despite the judge finally dealing out the maximum sentence of life imprisonment to the accused, after outright rejection by the victim of the outragious offer.

Strange indeed are the ways of the world. What would have happened if the girl had said yes! Would the judge have given a different sentence then even though there is no provision in law to consider it as a mitigating circumstance? What else? …well, one lives and learns!


900 words: dated 16.05.2005: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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