Chief Justice of India SA Bobde has clarified his comment made during a hearing of a rape case last week, saying that it was completely misreported and that the Supreme Court always has the highest respect to womanhood, media reports said.
“We did not ask him (rape accused) to marry. We asked ‘are you going to marry?’ We did not say ‘marry’,” CJI Bobde was quoted by NDTV as saying on Monday (March 8). His comment was made during the hearing of a plea by a minor girl seeking permission to abort a 26-week pregnancy.
On March 1, the top court was hearing the bail request of one Mohit Subhash Chavan, a technician with the Maharashtra State Electric Production Company, accused of raping a schoolgirl. He faced charges under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences law.
An Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) hearing the bail plea of the accused had noted that the girl was a minor at the time of the crime, and that her consent was not material under law. The ASJ still held that she had ‘sufficient maturity’, and that there was no explanation for the belated filing of the FIR. The ASJ observed that the victim might have falsely implicated the accused.
The Bombay High Court then observed that the ASJ’s reasoning showed “utter lack of sensitivity in such serious matters”, and it “undermined the legal principles and parameters which should weigh with the court in entertaining the application for anticipatory bail”.
The High Court held that there was sufficient reason to infer that he had indulged in sex with the victim when she was a minor. As a result, the High Court quashed the anticipatory bail granted by the ASJ to the accused.
“If you want to marry, we can help you. If not, you lose your job and go to jail. You seduced the girl, raped her. We are not forcing you. Later you may say court forced you,” the CJI had told the petitioner’s lawyer.
The reported remarks caused outrage as it was construed as the top court was considering marriage as some remedy for rape. Many activists, eminent citizens, intellectuals, writers, and artists wrote to CJI Bobde demanding an apology and a retraction of his remarks.
A court official later termed the criticism unfair, according to a PTI report, saying the comments were based on “judicial records” containing an undertaking of the accused that he would marry the minor girl, a relative, once she turned 18.