Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad Arvind Bobde
Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad Arvind Bobde
File Photo

New Delhi: A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India Sharad Bobde on Monday granted protection to two alleged rapists, one from Maharashtra and another from Uttar Pradesh.

It asked Mohit Subhash Chavan (23) from Maharashtra, accused of raping a minor girl studying then in Class IX in 2016 when she was 16, whether he will marry her. It was hearing a petition filed by the man who is now an electricity department employee in the state, against an order of the Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court, cancelling his anticipatory bail.

The FIR against him was lodged in 2019 by the victim girl on turning a major, under Sections 376, 417, 506 of the Indian Penal Code and under Sections 4 and 12 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act), 2012. She alleged that Chavan had forcibly entered here house and raped her and persisted with the sexual assault till she was in class XII.

To a pointed question by the CJI "will you marry her?" his counsel Anand Dilip Langde said he will have to take instructions from the client, noting that Chavan will be suspended from service if arrested in the case. "If you want to marry, we can help you. If not, you lose your job and go to jail for seducing and raping a minor girl," the CJI remarked.

The girl had gone to the police after the first rape. Chavan's mother held out an assurance that he would marry her and a document was eventually drawn up stating that the marriage would take place once she turns 18. She, however, filed a rape complaint when Chavan refused to marry her.

The CJI said he should have thought before seducing and raping the young girl. He hastened to add: "We are not forcing you to marry. Let us know if you will. Otherwise, you will say we are forcing you to marry."

When the case was taken up again after other matters, the lawyer told the court that the marriage was not possible since his client had already married someone else, though he initially wanted to marry the victim, but she refused. His client is a Hindu and so he will be committing a crime if he goes in for a second marriage.

The Bench, which also comprised Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, dismissed the petition, giving liberty to seek regular bail and granted the petitioner protection from arrest for four weeks.

ACTIVISTS ANGRY: The users on the social media were incensed over the CJI asking the alleged rapist in the Maharashtra case to marry his victim. He was already married and hence there was no question of marrying her, they pointed out.

How can the CJI make such a suggestion to let the girl marry the man whom she had accused of rape, they asked. One said the highest court in the country should know that marrying a survivor to her rapist is not a solution. Some even tagged the women's rights organisations, asking them to take action.

One twitter user said, "punishing the survivor to live with her abuser for the rest of her life is shocking."

UP CASE: In the Uttar Pradesh case, the Bench stayed the arrest of the alleged rapist for eight weeks, allowing him to withdraw the petition with liberty to seek discharge from the Allahabad High Court, which is seized of the matter of the woman registering an FIR of alleged rape against him after living with him for years as husband and wife.

"When two people are living as husband and wife, however brutal the husband is, can the act of sexual intercourse between them be called rape," asked the CJI. He was responding to the petition seeking quashing of the FIR alleging rape due to false promise of marriage.

The petitioner claimed they were living together and had consensual sexual relationship, but the woman filed the FIR after their relations turned sour. The court, however, refused to quash the FIR.

It took the decision after the woman's counsel Aditya Vashisht said the man had inflicted violence on her by brutally beating her on going back on the promise to marry. The lawyer also produced a medical certificate of the injuries.

Senior Advocate Vibha Datta Makhija, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that the allegations did not make out a case for rape and that the counter-affidavit of the woman clearly exhibited her consent. She said: "This is a habitual case with the lady as she has done this with two other people in the office."

The CJI said if this is the case, the man has a good case for discharge and could apply for it. He, however, objected to the senior lawyer calling the rape victim as "habitual." He said: "You know what the courts have said about calling rape victims habitual. We suggest you withdraw and apply for discharge after the evidence is led. We are not inclined to entertain your petition."

On Makhija pleading that her client is a working person, "with this sword hanging," the CJI responded: "We will see you are not arrested till final decision in trial." He changed it to protection for eight weeks after the woman's lawyer submitted that the person had attempted extortion.

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