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‘Will you marry rape victim?’ remark misreported; Court has the highest respect for womanhood: CJI Bobde issues clarification

Earlier last week, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde's question to a government employee seeking protection from arrest in a rape case, whether he is willing to marry the survivor raised several eyebrows.

In response to the controversy that was kicked up following the oral observations made during the hearing of a bail plea in a rape case, the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde on Monday said that the remarks attributed to him were “completely misreported”.

“The court has always accorded immense respect for the women,” the CJI noted.

Earlier last week, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde’s question to a government employee seeking protection from arrest in a rape case, whether he is willing to marry the survivor raised several eyebrows.

Responding to the controversy, CJI SA Bobde today observed that his remarks were misreported, adding that the question posed to the accused was never to elicit an answer from him but was a part of the proceedings.

“Even in that hearing, we never gave a suggestion that you should marry. We had asked, are you going to marry!”, the CJI said. He further added that the statement was in reference to the proceedings in a bail hearing last week.

The clarification from the CJI came while the bench was hearing an application seeking abortion of pregnancy of a 14-year-old rape victim.

When the advocate for the petitioner remarked that the court has been very generous to the girl, the CJI sharply noted, “It’s good to hear that. We have heard opposite opinions in the last two weeks”.

The advocate then replied that he was “completely against” the reports that have sullied the image of the court. “Some people tarnish Judiciary’s image, and some mechanism should be set up to deal with these people”, the petitioner’s counsel pressed.

The Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta, said that the remarks ascribed to the court were “twisted” and “taken out of context”. “Statements can be twisted and will mean something different”, the SG said.

“As an institution and Court, we have always had the highest respect for womanhood”, the CJI reiterated. “Our reputation is in hands of the Bar. We don’t need to protect us like that”, CJI replied.

CJI’s question asking a man accused of raping marrying his victim stokes a controversy

The Chief Justice of India SA Bobde was at the receiving end of criticism after he granted a 23-year-old government employee in Maharashtra, accused of repeatedly raping a minor girl in 2014-15, protection from arrest for four weeks, as he questioned the accused whether he would be interested in marrying the survivor. Journalists, activists, and prominent individuals had criticised the Chief Justice for his remarks.

The accused, Mohit Subhash Chavan, a technician with the Maharashtra State Electric Production Company had allegedly raped a then 16-year-old schoolgirl in 2014-15 and now faces charges under the POSCO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act, 2012.

The accused had approached the Supreme Court seeking protection from arrest after the Bombay High Court (Aurangabad Bench) on February 5 cancelled the anticipatory bail granted to Chavan by a Sessions court, on an application filed by the girl. He had then challenged this order in the Supreme Court, demanding anticipatory bail in the case.

“Will you marry her?”, CJI SA Bobde asked the petitioner’s lawyer when the matter was taken up for hearing, further suggesting: “You should have thought before seducing and raping the young girl. You knew you are a government servant.”

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