It was only after careful deliberation that the Special Investigation Team, probing sexual assault allegations against UP BJP leader Chinmayanand, decided to charge him under section 376C (sexual intercourse by a person in authority) of the IPC instead of section 376 amounting to rape.
The SIT had to consider whether the charges under section 376 would be enough to prove Chinmayanand’s guilt or would 376C give them a better chance to establish his guilt.
Retired Delhi High Court judge Justice S.N. Dhingra told IANS that the SIT has managed to accomplish several goals by charging him under 376C in the case relating to rape, blackmail and extortion.
“The SIT will now be able to submit the progress report in the case before the special bench of the Allahabad High Court which is monitoring the probe,” Dhingra said.
If the SIT had slapped charges under 376, these would not have stood up in court as the accused’s lawyers were certain to argue against it, he said.
Section 376 vs 376C
So how would charging him under 376 have benefited the accused and harmed the SIT’s case?
“Charging him under 376 would mean a ‘defeat’ for the SIT and in legal terms the accused would have ‘won’. So 376C will be very advantageous for the probe agency and the victim,” Dhingra said, adding that the entire sequence of events is very complicated.
“As per media reports, the accused took advantage of the victim and her family’s poor financial condition and he extended help to them in an official and unofficial capacity as head of an institution to lure the victim. But the accused perhaps did not realise that he could face charges under 376C.”
Being in a position of authority and as head of the college where the victim studied, Chinmayanand was in a position of power. He thus pressured the victim mentally to the point which ultimately led to the alleged sexual exploitation, blackmail and extortion, he said.
Blackmail, Sexual Exploitation & Extortion
Due to these circumstances, the SIT did not frame charges under 376 but instead under 376C as the alleged sexual assault had been preceded by enticement and pressure.
376C is meant to punish anyone in a position of power who forces a woman or girl to establish physical relations under duress, said Dhingra.
Former Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police Vikram Singh told IANS: “As the accused was the head of an institution he lured the victim by various means and managed to establish physical relations with her. The SIT now has to probe what happened subsequently. As per media reports, the whole case seems to be related to blackmail, sexual exploitation and extortion.”
As far as slapping 376C instead of 376 against the accused is concerned, it is the right course of action as if the SIT had directly framed charges of rape under 376, the case would have collapsed in court in the first hearing itself, he said.
(Sanjeev Kumar Singh Chauhan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)