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Lawyers' group slam CJI’s remarks on rape

Chief Justice of India S A Bobde’s casual observations could take a dangerous toll, they fear
Last Updated : 17 August 2021, 07:06 IST

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Prominent groups representing lawyers and women are demanding the resignation of Chief Justice of India S A Bobde in the wake of his controversial remarks in two rape cases.

The All India Lawyers’ Association for Justice (AILAJ) says in a statement, “It is of grave concern that the CJI has made such comments, which are not only retrograde, but are in fact dangerous precedents.” It demands a formal apology from Bobde.

Maitreyi Krishnan, Bengaluru-based advocate and one of the convenors of the association, says verbal observations in the courts can’t be cited as precedents, but they do leave an impact. “When you’re holding an office like this then everything you say has an impact... It could even have an impact on rape cases that are under investigation” she says.

The fundamental question is why and how someone could think this way. What does it say about Constitutional morality when the highest keeper of the Constitution makes a comment like this,” she says.

Namithaa Jayasankar, intersectional queer feminist activist, says Bobde’s remarks smack of “a very patriarchal way of looking at
things.”

Elsewhere, former Supreme Court judge Deepak Gupta told journalist Barkha Dutt the remarks were not meant in the way they came across. “But ... courts should not give the impression of gender bias and patriarchy,” he says.

Call for resignation

More than 4,000 people have signed an open letter to Bobde asking him to retract his words and step down.

“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... 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,” it reads.

It is endorsed by the All India Progressive Women’s Association, All India Democratic Women’s Association and eminent citizens.

Bengaluru-based activist Tara Krishnaswamy says crimes against women are hugely underreported “due to social stigma and the
patriarchal nature of the police.”

“This kind of thing only reinforces that,” she says.

CJI’s clarification

On March 8, Women’s Day, Bobde clarified that the bench headed by him had not asked the girl to marry the rapist. He said they had merely asked whether the man in question would marry the girl as was earlier stated in an affidavit between the two parties. He issued no clarification about his comments on marital rape.

Bar Council’s defence

The Bar Council of India backed Bobde, saying any criticism of his remarks would amount to a “direct attack on the independence of Judiciary”.

Signed by BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra, a statement reads, “Comments made by judges, not resulting in their orders, have no legal sanctity, why then to raise a hue and cry on such comments?”

Lawyers dispute this, saying judges’ observations influence the conduct of many institutions.

Controversial CJI remarks

* “You should have thought before seducing and raping the young girl. You knew you are a government servant… We are not forcing you to marry. Let us know if you will, otherwise you will say we are forcing you to marry her,” the CJI said to a man who repeatedly raped a minor and even threatened her with an acid attack.

* “If two people are married to each other and are living as husband and wife, the husband may be brutal and commit wrong. But can the act of sexual intercourse between lawfully wedded man and wife be called rape?,” Bobde asked the advocate of a woman who says she was assaulted by her husband.

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Published 09 March 2021, 18:37 IST

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