Censuring the practice of subjecting women to cruelty under the appearance of ceremonies, the Madras High Court on Tuesday observed that such acts can never be justified even if they had been followed for a very long time.
"No one has the right to force another person into any act in the name of a ceremony, which by its nature causes pain and suffering and results in cruelty to a person. Such acts can never be justified even if it had been followed for a very long time," Justice N Anand Venkatesh said.
The judge said a ceremony which affects the dignity of a person and which on the face of it is inhuman, offends Article 21 of the Constitution.
He said a strong message must be sent to society that cruel acts in the name of ceremonies would not be tolerated and will be dealt with severely by courts.
The judge stated this while modifying the July 2010 order of the principal sessions judge, Dharmapuri, sentencing four women who subjected the victim to cruelty, to one year imprisonment.
He directed that the sentence be set off against the period already undergone by them in prison.
The prosecution case was that the four women forcibly took the young woman to a dam late at night on February 12, 2001, removed her clothes, tonsured her head and burnt her tongue with a red hot needle.
Her 'thali' ('mangalsutra') was removed, but it was however, tied again by her husband, who was present. All this was done on the charge that she was possessed by an evil spirit, the prosecution said.
Following a complaint from the victim and her father, a case was registered on February 17.
The trial court awarded the sentence, which was confirmed by the sessions court in 2010.
The judge took into consideration the passage of 17 years from the date of occurrence of the crime and age of the accused and modified the sentence.
He directed them to each deposit a compensation of Rs 15,000 before the Judicial Magistrate II in Dharmapuri within eight weeks, enabling the victim to withdraw the amount.