The Supreme Court today expressed its dissatisfaction at the “complete misreporting” of last week’s hearing of a rape case in which it had purportedly asked a rape accused if he was going to marry the victim.
The Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian made the clarification today during the hearing of a petition filed by a 14-year-old girl rape victim seeking termination of her pregnancy.
At the start of the hearing, CJI Bobde clarified,
“We have given highest respect to womanhood. We asked are you going to marry. We didn’t order (him to) ‘marry’,” CJI said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta supported the CJI’s statement.
“You asked a question in a different context. You were quoted out of context,” Mehta said.
After advocate Biju termed the alleged misreporting as “tarnishing of the image of the highest court,” CJI Bobde asked SG Mehta to read Section 165 of the Indian Evidence Act, which reads:
“141. Judge’s power to put questions or order production – The 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.”
“You were completely in sync with mandate of Section 165 of the Evidence Act,” was SG Mehta’s response.
When Advocate Biju called for a mechanism to deal with tarnishing the reputation of the Court, CJI Bobde said,
“Our reputation is always at the hands of the Bar.”
The Court eventually expressed its desire to speak with the parents of the girl and adjourned the matter till Friday, March 12.
The remarks by CJI, which generated negative press for the top court, was made last week came in a different case in which a government servant was accused of repeatedly raping a minor girl.
The CJI had asked the accused whether he was going to marry the rape victim.
The question was posed during the hearing of an appeal against a verdict of the Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court by which an order of the Sessions Court granting the petitioner anticipatory bail was set aside.
CJI Bobde asked counsel for the petitioner,
“Will you marry her?”
To this, the advocate replied,
“I will take instructions.”
“You should have thought before seducing and raping the young girl. You knew you are a government servant,” was CJI Bobde’s response.
The Court then went on to stay the arrest of the petitioner, granting him interim protection for four weeks. In the meanwhile, the petitioner was asked to apply for regular bail.