'Feeble no may mean yes': Rape conviction overturned by Indian court

Bollywood director Mahmood Farooqui has had his rape conviction overturned.
Bollywood director Mahmood Farooqui has had his rape conviction overturned. Photo credit: Getty

A Bollywood director has had his rape conviction overturned, after an Indian court ruled that a "feeble no" may signal consent.

In 2015, Mahmood Farooqui was found guilty of sexually assaulting an American postgraduate student visiting his house.

She claimed he ignored her when she repeatedly told him "no" and he was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2016.

However, he appealed the decision, with his lawyers arguing he had not been aware the alleged victim did not consent.

Justice Ashutosh Kumar overturned his conviction on Monday (local time), saying he had to give "the benefit of the doubt" to Mr Farooqui.

"Instances of woman behaviour are not unknown that a feeble 'no' may mean a yes," he said.

The alleged victim told the court she stopped struggling, because she was afraid he would hurt her.

The judge said this would have told Mr Farooqui that she consented, "even though wrongly and mistakenly".

"What [Farooqui] has been communicated is... that the [alleged victim] is OK with it and has participated in the act," he said.

"It may not necessarily always mean yes in case of 'yes' or no in case of 'no'."

The decision was criticised by a Times of India editorial, which claimed the court may have "set a potentially dangerous precedent that a 'no' does not always necessarily mean no".

"It is easy to see defence lawyers lapping this up in cases of rape and other sexual offences, even where the alleged victim has explicitly said 'no', to argue that the accused may not have perceived it as a firm 'no'," it said.

"It is a slippery slope the court should have avoided stepping onto."