After much dilly-dallying, the French national who allegedly raped his three-year-and-ten-month-old daughter was arrested by the Bangalore police on Jun 19, 2012. Pascal Mazurier, deputy head of chancery in the French consulate at Bangalore, was subsequently remanded to judicial custody for 14 days.
Earlier Pascal's wife Suja Jones had lodged a complaint against him with the High Grounds police under whose jurisdiction the French Consulate office in Bangalore is located. Suja was forced to make the matter public after her maid told her that Pascal sexually abused the child more than once.
Suja, a native of Ernakulam in Kerala, appealed for him to be restrained from leaving the country till legal proceedings were completed. She stressed that under no circumstance should her husband be allowed custody of their three children.
With the media playing up the sordid saga of incest, there was immense pressure on the Bangalore police to take action against Pascal but their hands were tied by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations which bars civil or criminal prosecution of diplomats.
When the police hesitated in view of confusion over his exact status, activists saw red. "Diplomatic immunity cannot be a protection in such a heinous crime. The state government and the police are unnecessarily delaying discharging their duties," said Mr Mathew Philip, executive director, South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring.
Following persistent queries, France revealed that Pascal is a consular agent and as such holds a service passport rather than a diplomatic one. The French embassy's website clarified that an official of Mazurier's rank is "...Liable to arrest or detention in the case of grave crime, in execution of a judicial decision. Imprisonment in execution of a judicial decision of final effect."
Besides, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (1963) "does not provide for immunity of jurisdiction for acts committed outside the exercise of consular duties (Article 43)".
Around the same time Pascal was belatedly detained, reports of French investigators coming to India cast doubt on whether his country will allow Indian law to take its own course. France claims that it is only a fact-finding mission. The question is shouldn't they at least wait for the investigation to be completed?
As it is, the case has been weakened considerably by shocking failures on the part of the police. Despite the Baptist hospital in Hebbal confirming that the child was raped and registering a medico-legal case against the accused, the police did not detain Pascal immediately or try to have a DNA test done. Instead the child was taken for another round of tests at the Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospitals.
On May 22, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill was passed by Parliament. If the President had given assent to the Bill by now, the prosecution could have asked for Pascal to be sentenced to the maximum period of seven years.
Unfortunately the same is not possible under the IPC that makes it incumbent on the prosecution to prove that the victim's vagina had been penetrated by the accused.
If the police cannot provide evidence of penile vaginal intercourse, the accused only faces a prison term of two years for molestation. Considering the above, it looks like Pascal will escape stringent punishment due to a combination of factors.