In this article published by The Hindu, Jayna Kothari, Senior Advocate & Executive Director at Center for Law and Policy Research argues that how the recent Supreme Court judgment in Patan Jamal v. State of Andhra Pradesh missed an opportunity to use the concept of intersectionality to uphold the conviction under the Prevention of Atrocities Act (PoA) 1989. Despite highlighting the need for an intersectional approach that takes into account the multiple marginalities faced by the victim, the apex court failed to set a larger precedent recognising caste-based violence against women.
Excerpt from the Article:
In the Patan Jamal Vali case, the court using the intersectional lens recognises that evidence of discrimination or violence on a specific ground may be absent or difficult to prove. It agreed with the finding of the sessions judge that the prosecution’s case would not fail merely because the victim’s mother did not mention in her statement to the police that the offence was committed against her daughter because she was from an SC community. It also confirmed that it would be reasonable to presume that the accused knew the victim’s caste as he was known to the victim’s family. Despite such a nuanced understanding, the court held that there was no separate evidence led by the prosecution to show that the accused committed the offence on the basis of the victim’s caste. It is unfortunate that intersectionality, which seeks to recognise the multiple grounds of marginalisation faced by women, was used by the court to state that it becomes difficult to establish whether it was caste, gender or disability that led to the commission of the offence.
Why would this matter, one might ask, if the punishment of life imprisonment was upheld? It matters because the repeated setting aside of convictions under the PoA Act bolsters the allegations that the law is misused and amounts to the erasure of caste-based violence faced by women. Further, as stated in the recent Parliamentary Standing Committee Report on Atrocities and Crimes against Women and Children, the “high acquittal rate motivates and boosts the confidence of dominant and powerful communities for continued perpetration”.