New Delhi, Mar 08, 2021: A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde on Monday said it never asked anyone to marry rapist, and added that the SC has “the highest respect for women”.
The comments, made while the bench was hearing a case of a pregnant rape victim seeking a nod to abort the foetus, came in the wake of criticism against the Supreme Court that it had asked a rape accused in another case whether he would marry the victim.
Referring to the earlier case, the SC bench said on Monday, “Even in the last occasion there was no suggestion from any of us that you should marry. I checked there was no marital rape case before us.”
"We do not remember any case of marital rape was before us ...We have the highest respect for women."
"Our reputation is always at the hands of the bar," the Chief Justice of India said.
In the March 1 observations, the bench headed by CJI Bobde was hearing a plea filed by the accused, serving as a technician in Maharashtra State Electricity Production Company Ltd, who had moved the SC 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.”
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.
Following backlash over the alleged remarks, CPI(M) politburo member Brinda Karat had written to the chief justice asking him to withdraw his remarks reportedly made during the March 1 hearing on the anticipatory bail plea of the accused.
Women’s rights activists, eminent citizens, intellectuals, writers and artists also wrote to the chief justice demanding an apology and retraction of the remarks.
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.
The Bar Council of India had backed the Supreme Court and asked activists who had written to the CJI to withdraw his remarks not to "scandalise" the highest judiciary and take "political mileage" of its proceedings.