An Indian film director who was convicted of raping an American postgraduate student has had his conviction overturned after an Indian judge found that "a feeble no may mean a yes." Justice Ashutosh Kumar made his ruling Monday, noting that a weak no is especially indicative of a yes when the victim is well-educated, the Guardian reports. Mahmood Farooqui had originally been sentenced to seven years in prison for sexually assaulting the woman, a student at Columbia University, while she was at his Delhi home in 2015, the Hindustan Times reports; she said he forced himself on her while drunk and restrained her when she tried to physically stop him from taking off her clothes. His lawyers denied the encounter took place at all, but said if it had, Farooqui didn't know she did not consent.
The judge said he had to give "the benefit of the doubt" to Farooqui because, even though the alleged victim claimed she said "no," she also acknowledged she ultimately "went along with" the sex act. But, the Guardian notes, she testified that she ultimately stopped resisting because she feared she'd be hurt or even killed, and said that Farooqui only let her go when she faked an orgasm. The judge's take on that? She may have "wrongly and mistakenly" signaled that she was consenting. He also said consent is complex and "may not necessarily always mean yes in case of yes or no in case of no." Women's rights activists say this could set a dangerous precedent, and the Times of India calls it "a slippery slope." The alleged victim's lawyers will appeal to the Indian supreme court. Meanwhile, Farooqui's wife tells the Indian Express she's "very relieved."