New Delhi: Staying his arrest for a month, the Supreme Court asked a man whether he would marry the woman who had accused him of raping her when she was a minor.
NDTV has reported that the apex court was hearing a bail request of a government employee, one Mohit Subhash Chavan who has been accused of raping a schoolgirl. An employee at the Maharashtra State Electric Production Company, Chavan faces charges under the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act and had sought protection from arrest.
Chavan reportedly told the Supreme Court that his mother had “offered marriage” with him to the victim when she went to police. Although she had initially refused, a document was reportedly drawn up – it is not clear as to between whom – where Chavan had promised marriage with the minor victim when she turns 18.
The petition filed by Chavan says that when he refused to marry her once she turned 18, she filed the case.
“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,” Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde reportedly told Chavan’s lawyer, who said that his client could lose his job.
An exchange then ensued where CJI Bobde asked Chavan, “Will you marry her?”
The Chief Justice also said, “You should have thought before seducing and raping the young girl. You knew you are a government servant.”
And also, “We are not forcing you to marry. Let us know if you will. Otherwise you will say we are forcing you to marry her.”
The accused later reportedly told the apex court that he cannot as he is already married. “Initially I wanted to marry her. But she refused. Now I cannot as I am already married,” NDTV quoted her as having said.
When Chavan stressed that he is a government servant who faces automatic suspension if charges are framed against him, the apex court said, “That’s why we have given you this indulgence. We will stay the arrest for four weeks. Then you apply for regular bail.”
Chavan had earlier been granted protection from arrest by a trial court but that had been quashed by the high court.
Indian courts’ acceptance of marriage as a suitable resolution of rape cases has been commented upon and criticised by several legal experts and activists.
“Women’s groups and advocates and child rights activists in India generally converge on the point that marrying the survivor is a time tested ploy by rapists to escape conviction or the prolonged sentence. This tactic takes advantage of cultural issues around rape, where raped women are, to this day, looked upon as jinda lash – living dead,” Albertina Almeida had noted in an analysis for The Wire.
NDTV itself cites the example of a rape accused from Punjab whom the Supreme Court allowed to walk free provided he married the victim.
In a 2013 case (Shimbhu & Anr vs State Of Haryana), however, the Supreme Court itself had come down heavily against the practice.
“…[R]eligion, race, caste, economic or social status of the accused or victim or the long pendency of the criminal trial or offer of the rapist to marry the victim or the victim is married and settled in life cannot be construed as special factors for reducing the sentence prescribed by the statute. The power under the proviso should not be used indiscriminately in a routine, casual and cavalier manner for the reason that an exception clause requires strict interpretation,” the court had said.