March 8, 2010 3:20:51 am
Chief Justice of India (CJI) K G Balakrishnan today said that due regard should be given to the wishes of a rape victim if she chooses to marry the rapist or have the baby conceived as a result of the crime.
Due regard must be given to their personal autonomy since in some cases the victim may choose to marry the perpetrator or choose to give birth to a child conceived through forced intercourse, Balakrishnan said.
The CJI was addressing the national consultation on access to justice,relief and rehabilitation of rape victims,organised to mark International Womens Day,which is being observed tomorrow. Several high court judges and judicial officers were present in the audience.
Womens rights activists were not amused by the CJIs stand.
His statement is extremely unfortunate, asked Brinda Karat,general secretary,All India Democratic Womens Association. We expect the CJI to be concerned about extremely low conviction rate in rape cases,delay in deciding the case and the fact that victims are more often than not also blamed for the occurrence of the crime. Instead,the CJI chooses to take this line. Is he suggesting that this could be a viable alternative for the victim?
National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Girija Vyas also took exception to the CJIs statement.
I dont agree with his contention, Vyas said. If what he has suggested were to happen,it would be an easy way out for the rapists,who would first commit rape and then,if caught,make an offer to marry the victim. For the victim,such a marriage would be like dying every moment. Rapists deserve the strongest possible punishment, she said.
Union Minister for Women & Child Development,Krishna Tirath,whose Ministry organised the event,reacted cautiously,saying the CJIs suggestion would have to be read on a case-by-case basis.
In his address,Balakrishnan also said that judges,lawyers and social activists should not take an overtly paternalistic approach while making decisions for the welfare of rape victims.
At the same time,he refused to accept the argument that high mobility of women in modern times was one of the reasons for the sharp rise in the number of rapes. I do not agree with this proposition. Because it is the task of the criminal justice system to prevent and punish the culprits, he said.
Womens rights activists pointed out that the CJIs view flew in the face of a ruling by the Supreme Court,which said that neither a proposal of marriage nor any other settlement between the rapist and his victim could condone the crime.
In 2006,the apex court had observed that rape was a crime against basic human rights and violative of the victims Right to Life.
(With Agency inputs)
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