CJI SA Bobde must step down for asking rape accused to marry victim: Open Letter

CPI(M) politburo member Brinda Karat have written an open letter urging CJI SA Bobde to step down and to withdraw his remarks where he asked rape accused if he was willing to marry victim

Chief Justice of India SA Bobde (Photo courtesy- social media)
Chief Justice of India SA Bobde (Photo courtesy- social media)


CPI(M) politburo member Brinda Karat has written to Chief Justice of India S A Bobde, urging him to withdraw his remarks made during the hearing of a case where he asked a rape accused if he was willing to marry the victim, saying that courts should not give an impression of supporting such "retrograde" approaches.

Karat was referring to remarks made during the hearing of a plea filed by a public servant, who is accused of repeatedly raping a girl, against the Bombay High Court's February 5 order, which had cancelled his anticipatory bail.

The Left leader said these questions, words and actions have serious implications in granting of bail in cases of rape of minors.

"Please reconsider and withdraw these comments and questions," she said, requesting that the judgment of the Aurangabad bench of the high court -- that bail granted to him by the lower court was 'atrocious' -- be upheld.

When the hearing on the plea commenced on Monday, the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, asked the accused, "Are you willing to marry her?"

"If you are willing to marry her then we can consider it, otherwise you will go to jail," observed the bench, adding, "We are not forcing you to marry."

The counsel appearing for the petitioner said the accused was initially willing to marry the girl but she had refused and now he was married to someone else.

As the counsel said that the accused is a public servant, the bench said, "You should have thought this before seducing and raping the girl. You knew that you are a government servant."

The apex court granted the accused protection from arrest for four weeks to allow him to apply for regular bail in the trial court.

In the letter, Karat said, "The girl was gagged and raped by this criminal, when she was just sixteen years old. He repeated his crime 10-12 times. The girl tried to commit suicide. Does this show consent?"

"In any case, in the case of a minor, as this girl was, the law is clear that there is no issue of consent."

She also asked the CJI to consider the effect such questions will have on the psyche of victims.

The message given is that a rapist can escape jail if after the crime he "agrees" to marry his victim whether she wants to or not, she said.

"There is a prevailing retrograde social approach that the victim of rape is a 'bad' woman and if the rapist marries her, she gains respectability in the eyes of society. Comments of the apex court should not give the impression of supporting such approaches," she said.

Karat said the processes of justice must keep the interests of the rape victim at the centre. "Unfortunately in this case, the opposite has happened," she said.

Women's rights activists like Kavita Krishnan and Annie Raja, eminent citizens, intellectuals, writers and artists such as Admiral L Ramdas, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Pamela Phillipose, Anand Sahay, Devaki Jain, John Dayal have also written an open letter to the CJI demanding an apology, retraction of his remarks and demanded that he "step down without a moment's delay!".

The letter, endorsed by around 4,000 people from all walks of life, states that the remarks made by the CJI not only legitimises any kind of sexual, physical and mental violence by the husband, but it normalises the torture that Indian women have been facing within marriages for years without any legal recourse.

"From the towering heights of the post of CJI of the Supreme Court, it sends the message to other courts, judges, police and all other law enforcing agencies that justice is not a constitutional right of women in India.

"This will only lead to the further silencing of girls and women, a process that took decades to break. To the rapists, it sends the message that marriage is a licence to rape; and that by obtaining such a licence, the rapist can post facto decriminalise and legalise his act," the letter said.

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