Holding that rape is not only an offence against a woman, but a crime against the entire society, the apex court said that courts should deal with such cases sternly and severely.
"Even if the victim had lost her virginity earlier, it can certainly not give a licence to any person to rape her. It is the accused who was on trial and not the victim. So as to whether the victim is of a promiscuous character is totally an irrelevant issue altogether in a case of rape," a bench of justices B S Chauhan and F M I Kalifulla said.
The bench passed the order on an appeal filed by a rape convict challenging his conviction on the ground that the victim was of promiscuous character and had been habitual to sexual activities.
It, however, refused to grant relief to the accused saying that it is not material that the rape victim was accustomed to sexual intercourse.
"Even a woman of easy virtue has a right to refuse to submit herself to sexual intercourse to anyone and everyone, because she is not a vulnerable object or prey for being sexually assaulted by anyone and everyone," the bench said.
"The courts should deal with such cases sternly and severely. Sexual violence, apart from being a dehumanizing act, is an unlawful intrusion on the right of privacy and sanctity of a woman. It is a serious blow to her supreme honour and offends her self-esteem and dignity as well," the bench said.
"It degrades and humiliates the victim and where the victim is a helpless innocent child or a minor, it leaves behind a traumatic experience. A rapist not only causes physical injuries, but leaves behind a scar on the most cherished position of a woman, i.e. her dignity, honour, reputation and chastity," it said.