Sentencing in rape cases: A critical appraisal of judicial decisions in India

Ravinder Barn, Ved Kumari

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This paper seeks to explore High Court judges’ accounts and perceptions of rape and sentencing in India. Located within a mixed-methods approach, the study aims to contribute to theoretical and empirical understandings into gender, sexual violence, patriarchy and the criminal justice system. With the continuous focus on rape laws and the legislature prescribing harsher punishments for rape and aggravated rape, all rape cases concluded in the year 2012 (n=55) were subjected to scrutiny. Incidentally, this also marked 20 years of the introduction of mandatory minimum sentences for rape and aggravated rape, first introduced in 1983. In-depth semi-structured interviews with High Court judges (n=10), and survey data from 261 criminal justice professionals further contributed to the academic inquiry. Our findings document a mechanistic approach in judicial decision-making with little or no regard to aggravating circumstances, and indicate a mismatch between the legislative framework of harsh punishment and the actual reality of sentencing decision-making. Our focus on the High Courts also provides us with a sense of trial court decision-making and the likely differentiation in approach between the two courts. Study findings point to an urgent need for training of criminal justice professionals in the area of sentencing, in both the trial court and the High Court in India.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIndian Journal of Law Institute
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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