A Prolonged Fight for Justice Denied: State of Karnataka Vs. Pascal Mazurier
Despite ‘access to justice’ being a fundamental right enshrined in the constitution, in engaging with the system over time, one comes to realize that access doesn’t really frame the experience in terms of imagery and feeling. Access to justice feels like connecting to a wi-fi and entering a password. While the fight for justice implies a conflict- two or more opposing sides getting at each other and taking a beating from one another. There is all round (including collateral) damage, but the most vulnerable party in a fight will be the one who gets it the worst. In a fight, you can be rest assured that the vulnerable almost always come out in a pretty bad shape.
The above thoughts on the lexical landscape of how we talk about justice were probably the least frustrating ones that occurred to us while going through the recent judgement in the case of The State Of Karnataka vs Pascal Mazurier (or as we know it ‘The Bangalore French Diplomat Child Sexual Abuse Case’). It reads less like a judgement and more like a troll’s twitter feed. Between the Defense Counsel and the Honorable Court, what takes place is a case of classic trolling of the mother and the child:-
The central matter of sexual offences against a 3 year old is all but ignored. The mother and the child are disbelieved. Deviously retrograde and judgmental remarks are passed. Tangential matters are dug up from the past in order to pose as material for ‘whatabout-ery’. A larger conspiracy facilitated by NGOs is hinted at. And all throughout, the father is held up as a holy cow.
We are not saying that this case is any kind of aberration in the system. What we are saying is “Yet again……..”
The case came to light in mid-2012 when Suja Jones Mazurier filed a case against her husband Pascal Mazurier, a consular agent at the French consulate in Bangalore, accusing him of committing sexual offences against their 3 year old girl child. She had suspected abuse since 2010 but it was only when she approached the organization ENFOLD in Bangalore in 2012 that her fears were confirmed.
Around the same time, she came home one day to find her daughter crying. The maid of the house told her that in her absence, the husband had taken her daughter to the bedroom and had been with her for a considerable amount of time. The mother took her daughter to the hospital where sexual assault was confirmed. Post which, the case was filed.
The case gained media attention when the Bangalore Police and Consulate seemed be taking the matter less-then-seriously and this precipitated into an outcry by citizens and organizations. He was eventually arrested and was granted conditional bail in October 2012.
In December 2015, the court, in a condemnable move, granted the accused access to the victim. Then, on 19th April 2017, Pascal Mazurier was acquitted.
As soon as the basic facts of the case are established, the narrative of the judgement starts moving in suspicious and unwarranted directions.
The Court takes it sweet time establishing facts like the mother went to Pubs, Movies and late night parties; had an abortion; her sister married an American and later divorced him; the other two siblings are unmarried; and all this followed by a chronological enquiry into who paid for her expenses when-where-how. We are not even halfway through the document at this point, but it is dispiritingly familiar as to where this is heading.
Then the judgement establishes the NGOs and other support persons involved. Most of them respected and redoubtable institutions and individuals. The mother is asked if she was attempting to ‘fix’ her husband using this nefarious nexus of civil society to gain access to property, money and the children.
Displaying the massive V shaped chasm that exists between real life and the justice system, the Court is wonders as to why the mother did not report the matter to the police at first and why she approached the NGOs?
Then the Court cites what are clearly botched DNA tests. (one swab taken from the child didn’t even test positive for the child) and then proceeds to prod and magnify the element of ‘doubt’ in the medical examinations. It spends an inordinately long time considering E-Coli infection as a possible alternative universe explanation as to why the child’s vagina showed redness.
Then the counsellors are asked if the daughter (‘victim’) was being made a weapon against the husband. They are also asked to ascertain how difficult it was for child victims of sexual offences as young as three to speak about the incident (very) and how easy it was for the mother to influence a child at a tender age (very).
The child, probably around 9, was made to recall previous incidents. She recalls a time when her father pinched her on her private parts and assaulted her; when he put ‘white liquid’ on her; used his hands to assault her; showed her his private parts; and caused her pain. The court in Proustian fashion quickly proceeds to establish the fleeting nature of memory as the girl does not seem to remember the faces of aunties past from when she was 3 and suffered abuse. The Court will later consider that ‘pinching’ hardly qualifies as sexual abuse and that there is a possibility that the ‘white liquid’ may refer to an ointment.
Then the Court completely dismisses what the child has to say because it observes that the 9 year old child assaulted when she was 3 is “unable to say many things in her evidence and she cannot remember anything.” The Court also brings up an earlier statement where the child mentions that she liked her father. In the mind of the court, a victim can never say such things about the perpetrator.
The court now turns its attention back to the mother. She moved a lot with friends, the court establishes and has even taken nude pictures of herself with her friends. The Court goes blue in the face before graciously noting that pictures may have been taken to be sent to her husband. “This shows that this complainant is in the habit of leading her life by spending her time in parties,” reads the judgement. The Court also notes how all this “behavior” was unacceptable for the upstanding Mr. Mazurier.
Then the Court hears out the maid and the driver who both attest to their boss and income-provider Mr. Mazurier as being a a regular, decent person. While Ms. Mazurier was a frequenter of ‘malls’ and ‘parties’ and had ‘friends’.
Then the Court just sheds all shame and goes for the jugular – “Pw.4 (the mother) is a wayward wife and she was not looking after the children in proper manner and she was spending thrift. She was going to parties and continuing her behaviour with other which strained the relationship. Even prior to the marriage also he requested not to go to night clubs, pubs and when she was in U.S., she had abortion prior to the marriage. She was having both male and female friends. She was spending the money more than what the accused was earning.”
What is missing till now is the old trope of a sexual assault victim failing to raise an alarm. The Court does not fail to tick that box. The quietness of the neighborhood is emphasized upon and also the fact that the 3 year old does not seemed to have raised sufficient alarm. Of course, these are not put across as crudely as before. There is a certain amount of sophistication that the Court brings to victim blaming here.
The Court also says that the mother ‘had access to the internet’ which enabled her to carry out her devious plan. Everyone knows that the internet is for perverts!
And then this pearl – “it is undisputed that the accused and the complainant were having regular sexual intercourse. Then what was the necessity for the accused to have sexually abuse on his own child is also throws doubt on the case of the complainant.”
And finally now, the fight draws to a close. And the Court now braces to deliver the Knockout blow:- The “complainant intentionally with the help of N.G.O. and doctors has made the accused as scapegoat in order to restrain him from going out of India.”
All this straight from the mouth of one of the pillars of our democracy. What a shame!
In the case of The State Of Karnataka vs Pascal Mazurier, it was justice that took a round beating. It was playing at home and it lost. And in a most absurd way, it seems to have punched itself in the face.