SC sets aside HC’s ‘rakhi for bail’ order in sex assault case

Top court issues a raft of directions to be followed by lower courts while dealing with similar cases

SC
The Supreme Court collegium’s recommendation comes after a 22-month-long stalemate over a decision, due to a lack of consensus among the five senior-most judges on the names.

The Supreme Court on Thursday set aside a Madhya Pradesh High Court order allowing bail to a man accused of sexual assault on the condition that he request her to tie a rakhi around his wrist.

A two-judge bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and S Ravindra Bhat passed judgment on a petition by SC advocate Aparna Bhat and eight other women lawyers challenging the HC order. “There is a strong likelihood that such observations and directions may result in normalising what is essentially a crime and has been recognised to be so by the law,” the petition contended.

Also read: Is ‘skin-to-skin contact’ necessary to prove sexual assault?

In April 2020, Vikram Bagri, who was in jail in Ujjain on charges of assaulting a neighbour, filed a bail petition before the Indore Bench of the HC.

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On July 30 the Bench granted conditional bail to him – one of the conditions being he would present himself before the complainant so that she could tie a rakhi around his wrist. The court also asked him to pay her 11,000 and protect her just as he would protect his own sister, Bar and Bench reported. Moreover, it asked him to give an additional 5,000 to the complainant’s son for the “purchase of clothes and sweets”.

Also read: Controversial orders in sex assault cases cost HC judge permanent role

On Thursday the SC set aside that order. It also issued a raft of directions to be followed by lower courts while dealing with similar cases.

Last year the top court had issued a notice to Attorney General KK Venugopal eliciting his views on how to make lower courts more empathetic while hearing sexual assault cases. The AG had then filed a detailed submission on the issue. Among the measures he had submitted were the need to sensitise judges who were “old school” and “patriarchal” in their outlook and increasing the number of women in the judiciary.

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