Never asked anyone to marry a rapist, completely misreported, says CJI SA Bobde after last week's case sparks outrage

The court was on Monday hearing the case of a 14-year-old pregnant rape survivor seeking a nod to abort a foetus of almost 26 weeks

FP Staff March 08, 2021 16:56:47 IST
Never asked anyone to marry a rapist, completely misreported, says CJI SA Bobde after last week's case sparks outrage

File image of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde. News18

On Monday, Chief Justice SA Bobde clarified that his remarks, asking a rape survivor to marry her attacker during a hearing last week that sparked outrage were "completely misreported", according to several media reports.

A Supreme Court bench headed by the CJI and also comprising justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said "we have the highest respect for women", PTI reported.

The court was on Monday hearing the case of a 14-year-old pregnant rape survivor seeking a nod to abort a foetus of almost 26 weeks.

The reputation of the judiciary is in the hands of its lawyers, the bench added as per PTI.

The bench's remarks, on International Women's Day, come after Justice Bobde last week reportedly asked a 23-year-old government servant if he would marry the woman who accused him of rape.

Those purported remarks sparked outrage from journalists and activists who demanded that the accused be charged in accordance with the alleged crime.

Several women' rights activists, eminent citizens, intellectuals, writers and artistes had also penned an open letter to the chief justice demanding an apology and retraction of the remarks.

CPI(M) politburo member Brinda Karat had written to the chief justice asking him to withdraw his remarks reportedly made during the 1 March hearing on the anticipatory bail plea of the accused.

'Even in that hearing, we never gave a suggestion that you should marry. We had asked, are you going to marry!', the CJI added, as per Live Law.

As per Bar and Bench, Solicitor- General Tushar Mehta sided with the CJI.

"You asked a question in a different context. You were quoted out of context," Mehta said, as per the report.

"Statement when twisted out of context will mean something different [sic]," Mehta added, as per Live Law.

As per Bar and Bench, CJI Bobde then asked SG Mehta to read Section 165 of the Indian Evidence Act:

"141. Judge’s power to put questions or order production - The Judge may, in order to discover or to obtain proper proof of relevant facts, ask any question he pleases, in any form, at any time, of any witness, or of the parties, about any fact relevant or irrelevant; and may order the production of any document or thing; and neither the parties nor their agents shall be entitled to make any objection to any such question or order, nor, without the leave of the Court, to cross-examine any witness upon any answer given in reply to any such question."

"You were completely in sync with mandate of Section 165 of the Evidence Act,"Mehta responded, as per the report.

Advocate VK Biju, appearing for the petitioner in the case listed on Monday, said a section of the people is tarnishing the institution and some kind of mechanism is needed to deal with this, as per PTI

To which CJI Bobde responded, "Our reputation is always at the hands of the Bar."

The Bar Council of India had backed the Supreme Court and asked activists who had written to the CJI to withdraw his remarks to not "scandalise" the highest judiciary and take "political mileage" of its proceedings.

It was stated earlier that the apex court's query asking a rape accused whether he would marry the victim was based on ''judicial records'' containing an undertaking from the man that he would marry the minor girl, a relative, after she turns 18 years of age.

Referring to the earlier case, the bench said on Monday, "We do not remember any case of marital rape was before us .. We have the highest respect for women."

In the 1 March observations, the bench headed by Bobde was hearing a plea filed by the accused, serving as a technician in Maharashtra State Electricity Production Company Ltd, who had moved the apex court against a Bombay High Court February 5 order cancelling his anticipatory bail.

The bench, also comprising justices Bopanna and Ramasubramanian, had 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. “We are not forcing you to marry,” it said. The man’s lawyer said the accused was initially willing to marry the girl but she had refused and now he was married to someone else.

With inputs from PTI

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