Backlash over Indian chief justice’s suggestion that a rapist ‘marry his victim’

Women’s rights groups are demanding that the chief justice apologise and step down from his post

Mayank Aggarwal
Thursday 04 March 2021 09:27 GMT
File image: Indian women rights activists try to break Police barricades during a candle light march in December 2019 in New Delhi to denounce violence against women
File image: Indian women rights activists try to break Police barricades during a candle light march in December 2019 in New Delhi to denounce violence against women (EPA)

Sharad A Bobde, chief justice of India’s Supreme Court, is facing a severe backlash from women’s rights groups for asking a rapist if he was willing to marry a woman he sexually assaulted and threatened when she was a school-going minor.

The remarks were reportedly made by Justice Bobde on 1 March, while hearing a case related to a man accused of stalking, tying up, gagging, and repeatedly raping a minor girl. He had also threatened to burn her, hurl acid at her, and have her brother killed.

According to local media reports, the chief justice, while hearing the accused’s bail petition, asked him if he was willing to marry the girl.

He stated that “if you want to marry we can help you. If not, you lose your job and go to jail. You seduced the girl, raped her. We are not forcing you to marry. Let us know if you will,” reported The Wire. Justice Bobde also stayed the man’s arrest for one month.

The incident sparked outrage amongst feminists, women’s rights groups, and activists who on 2 March released an open letter to the chief justice of India (CJI) demanding that he retract his words, tender an apology to women, and step down from his post without delay.

The letter, which has already been signed by over 4,000 eminent citizens, women’s rights bodies, activists and other progressive groups, said that the CJI’s “proposal of marriage as an amicable solution to settle the case of rape of a minor girl is worse than atrocious and insensitive, for it deeply erodes the right of victims to seek justice.”

Kavita Krishnan, who is the secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), said the letter was drafted soon after the CJI’s comments so that it reflects the “anger and outrage” of the signatories.

“The fact that the chief justice could make such remarks is just intolerable. It is like women just don’t matter in this country,” Ms Krishnan told The Independent while stating that within hours of releasing the letter it was signed by thousands of people.

It also criticised him for another set of remarks in a case related to marital rape which isn’t a crime under Indian laws. Justice Bode reportedly stated that if a couple is living together as man and wife, “the husband may be a brutal man, but can you call the act of sexual intercourse between a lawfully wedded man and wife as rape.”

“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 the marriage is a license to rape,” the letter said.

Ms Krishnan stated that what is more infuriating is that from the time his remarks were criticised, he has not acknowledged or reacted to the whole issue. “We cannot hope anyone, including the current parliament, to take action against him,” she said.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in