Shri Bodhisattwa Gautam v. Miss Subhra Chakraborty [ Cited as: 1996 AIR 922, 1996 SCC (1) 490 ]

Country India
Category Right to Health
Date of Judgment 15-12-1995
Link / Attachment
  • Description

    Miss Chakraborty, in a criminal complaint, alleged that she began an affair in April 1989 with Chakraborty while he was a lecturer and she was a student at Baptist College in Kohima, Nagaland.  She asserted Gautam professed his love and deceived her into sexual intercourse with false assurances that he would marry her after receiving his parents’ consent.  When she became pregnant in September 1993, he coerced her into a secret marriage ceremony conducted with the appearance of authenticity, well-knowing it was invalid, then convinced Chakraborty to have an abortion, and again pressured another abortion in 1994.  Subsequently, in 1995, he abandoned her for a lecture position in Assam.  In 1995, Chakraborty filed a criminal complaint against Gautam in the Court of the Judicial Magistrate, 1st Class in Kohima.  She claimed Gautam caused her to miscarry/abort her pregnancies, induced her to deliver property, induced cohabitation through an unlawful marriage, conducted a fraudulent marriage ceremony, and subjected her to cruelty, causing her severe mental and physical suffering, in violation of Sections 312, 420, 493, 496, and 498-A of the Indian Penal Code.  Gautam’s attempt to quash the complaint was dismissed by the Gauhati High Court, and his re-petition in the Indian Supreme Court was also dismissed.  Thereafter, the Indian Supreme Court, taking notice of Chakraborty’s factual allegations in her criminal complaint, examined its ability to compel Gautam’s payment of maintenance costs while the criminal proceedings were pending.  Gautam denied all allegations in the complaint, and offered proof of his current unemployment and thus inability to compensate Chakraborty.  The Court noted its expansive authority under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution to enforce and protect individual’s fundamental rights, including its power to award compensation for violations, even if Chakraborty did not raise a fundamental rights issue.  It found that Gautam’s actions violated Chakraborty’s fundamental right to liberty, and the Article 21 right to life, defined as the right to live with human dignity.  Noting the social barriers women face in India, and particularly the psychological and social consequences for rape victims, the Court ordered the creation of a Criminal Injuries Compensation Board to cover losses experienced by victims of sexual assault.  It also issued a set of guidelines to help indigent rape victims who cannot afford medical, psychological and legal services consistent with the Principles of UN Declaration of Justice for victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, 1985. Finally, the Court ordered Gautam to pay Rs. 1000 per month in maintenance costs for Chakraborty’s livelihood during the pending criminal case, starting from the date the complaint was filed. 


  • Judgment

    The Supreme Court recognized that in addition to proceeding on a petition of a publicly spirited individual, the Court retains judicial authority to take cognizance of a matter and proceed suomoto. The Court also held fundamental rights can be enforced against private bodies and individuals.

    The decision is a landmark judgment concerning violence against women with the Supreme Court recognizing that rape amounts to a violation of a fundamental right as protected under Article 21, and issued a set of guidelines mandating legal, psychological and medical services be provided to rape victims in accordance with international human rights law. 

    (Excerpt from the judgement)

    On the basis of principles set out in the aforesaid decision in Delhi Domestic Working Women's Forum, the jurisdiction to pay interim compensation shall be treated to be part of the overall jurisdiction of the Courts trying the offences of rape which, as pointed out above is an offence against basic human rights as also the Fundamental Right of Personal Liberty and Life.

    Apart from the above, this Court has the inherent jurisdiction to pass any order it consists fit and proper in the interest of justice or to do complete justice between the parties. Having regard to the facts and circumstances of the present case in which there is a serious allegation that Bodhisattwa Gautam had married Subhra Chakraborty before the God he worshiped by putting Varmilion on her forehead and accepting her as his wife and also having impregnated her twice resulting in abortion on both the occasions, we, on being prima-facie satisfied, dispose of this matter by providing that Bodhisattwa Gautam shall pay to Subhra Chakraborty a sum of Rs. 1,000/- every month as interim compensation during the pendency of Criminal Case No. 1/95 in the court of Judicial Magistrate, 1st Class, Kohima, Nagaland. He shall also be liable to pay arrears of compensation at the same rate from the date on which the complaint was filed till this date. We may further observe that whatever has been said in this Judgment shall not, in any way, affect or prejudice the Magistrate from deciding the complaint on merits on the basis of the evidence as may be tendered before it and in accordance with law.