The remarks made by the Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde in connection to a rape case left everyone disgusted. He received huge criticism for asking the rape accused whether he would like to marry the victim.
Over 4000 citizens including members of over 50 women’s rights and progressive groups/networks, feminists, students, senior citizens, advocates, and filmmakers signed an open letter to CJI demanding an apology and also to retract his remarks about asking for a rape accused to marry the victim.
However, an official from Supreme Court found the criticism baseless and stated that the query to ask the accused to marry the rape victim was simply based on the “judicial records” following the undertaking of the man and his mother that he would marry the minor girl when she turns 18.
50 women’s rights activists include signatories from All India Progressive Women’s Association, National Federation of Indian Women, Saheli, Forum Against Oppression of Women, Bebaak Collective.
The open letter stated,
You were hearing the petition [on March 1] for protection from arrest, of a man accused of stalking, tying up, gagging, repeatedly raping a minor school going girl, and threatening to douse her in petrol and set her alight, to hurl acid at her, and to have her brother killed. The facts of the case are that the rape came to light when the victim attempted suicide. You asked this man if he was willing to marry his victim… By suggesting that this rapist marry the survivor, you, the CJI, sought to condemn the survivor to a lifetime of rape at the hands of the tormentor.
We bore witness when your predecessor sat in judgement over an accusation of sexual harassment against himself, and lobbed false, defamatory attacks on the complainant and her family from the Bench of the Supreme Court. An appeal against the atrocious acquittal of a convicted rapist on the premise that a woman’s ‘Feeble No might mean a Yes’ was not admitted. You have asked why women farmers are being ‘kept’ in protests against farm laws and asked for them to be ‘sent back home’– again, implying that women lack the autonomy and personhood that men do. Then yesterday, you said, “If a couple is living together as man and wife, the husband may be a brutal man, but can you call the act of sexual intercourse between a lawfully wedded man and wife as rape.
Enough is enough. Your words scandalise and lower the authority of the court. 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. We demand that you retract the words… and tender an apology to the women of this country.
The letter also demands CJI to “step down without a moment’s delay”.
“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,” asked the CJI to a government employee who was accused of raping a minor girl repeatedly and also threatening her.