Updated: March 9, 2021 7:42:57 am
Apparently upset over the controversy over his remarks during the hearing of the anticipatory bail plea of a rape accused last week, Chief Justice of India S A Bobde Monday said there was “complete misreporting” of what he actually said and that the court “has given highest respect to womanhood”.
The remarks come in the wake of recent criticism against the Supreme Court during a March 1 hearing, in which it had purportedly asked a rape accused whether he would marry the girl who had complained against him. Both the accused and the complainant girl in the case were minors when the alleged crime was committed.
After that hearing, CPI(M) politburo member Brinda Karat had written to the CJI, asking him to withdraw his remarks. Several women’s rights activists, eminent citizens, intellectuals, writers and artistes had also penned an open letter to the CJI, demanding an apology and retraction of the remarks.
On Monday, the CJI sought to clarify that his query “will you marry her” to the accused in the March 1 hearing was in the context of that particular case. The petitioner rape accused in that case was accused by the girl of reneging on his promise to marry her.
“…we never gave a suggestion that you should marry. We had asked, are you going to marry?” the CJI said while hearing another case of a 14-year-old rape survivor seeking the court’s permission to abort her 26-week pregnancy.
Advocate V K Biju, appearing for the 14-year-old, was thanking the Court for being considerate to his client when the CJI recalled last week’s developments.
“Good to hear this. We have heard the opposite in the last two weeks”, the CJI told the counsel.
“You asked a question in a different context. You were quoted out of context”, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta weighed in.
The CJI then referred the SG’s attention to section 165 of the Evidence Act which says that “a Judge may, in order to discover or to obtain proper proof of relevant facts, ask any question he pleases, in any form, at any time, of any witness, or of the parties, about any fact relevant or irrelevant; and may order the production of any document or thing; and neither the parties nor their agents shall be entitled to make any objection to any such question or order, nor, without the leave of the Court, to cross-examine any witness upon any answer given in reply to any such question.”
The SG responded that the CJI was “completely in sync with the mandate of Section 165 of the Act”.
“The fact of the matter is an institution and this bench we have had the highest respect of womanhood”, added the CJI.
Advocate Biju suggested that there should be some mechanism to deal with such issues but the CJI did not seem to agree and said “our reputation is always at the hands of the Bar”.
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