On the event of International Women’s Day, the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said that the Supreme Court, as an institution, had the highest respect for womanhood, and recent media reports quoting him as asking an alleged rapist to marry his victim was ‘completely misreported’.
The above statement was made in reference to a virtual hearing held on March 1, wherein several media outlets reported the CJI asking a 23-year-old rape accused’s lawyer to find out whether his client would be willing to marry the 16-year-old girl victim or risk the prospect of going to jail. The lawyer came back later in the day and said that his client had declined, as he was already married. The man was facing an FIR which was lodged in 2019 by the victim after he backtracked from his promise to marry her.
“Even in that hearing, we never gave a suggestion that you should marry. We had asked, are you going to marry!” asserted the CJI. “This court has always have given the largest respect to women,” he added.
Further, the CJI stated that certain people were out to tarnish the image of the judiciary and a counter mechanism needs to be set up.
The petitioner, Mohit Subhash Chavan, was accused of raping a 16-year-old girl. The girl alleged that during 2014-2015, when she was around 16 years of age and was studying in the ninth standard, the accused used to stalk her. Since he was her distant relative, he used to keep coming to her house. She further alleged that during that period, he clandestinely entered the house from a backside door and committed rape on her. He also threatened her of consequences if the incident was disclosed. She further alleged that even thereafter he continuously stalked her and threatened her. She alleged that he used to come frequently to her house and used to have sexual intercourse. She has also stated that sometimes, he used to use contraceptives. Since she was afraid, she never disclosed this fact to anybody.
“You should have thought before seducing and raping the young girl. You know you are a government servant,” the CJI replied. “We are not forcing you to marry. Let us know if you will. Otherwise, you will say we are forcing you to marry,” the CJI added.
However, the lawyer informed that marriage was not possible as the petitioner had married someone else. The lawyer added that the petitioner initially wanted to marry her but she refused.
After that, the bench dismissed the petition giving him liberty to seek regular bail. The bench, also comprising Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, granted the petitioner protection from arrest for four weeks. The FIR against the petitioner, in that case, was lodged in 2019 under Sections 376, 417, 506 of the Indian Penal Code and under Sections 4 and 12 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act) by the girl.
It was further alleged that when the girl tried to lodge a police complaint with the help of a social worker, the mother of the accused dissuaded her from it saying that she will accept her as a daughter-in-law. She further alleged that the petitioner once got executed writing on a stamp paper from her illiterate mother, stating that there was an affair between the two, and with her consent, they both had indulged in sex. It was promised that he will marry her after she attained majority.
However, the accused backtracked from his promise and married someone else. After the accused was granted anticipatory bail by the Sessions Court, the girl approached the Bombay High Court seeking its cancellation. In the order canceling his anticipatory bail, the Bombay High Court observed that the accused had sexually exploited the girl for a sufficiently long period.